Ben & Jerry's says it will eliminate single-use plastics

Ben & Jerry's sundae
Public Domain Wikimedia Commons

"We're not going to recycle our way out of this problem," the company has said.

The famous Vermont ice cream company Ben & Jerry's has announced a moooove away from single-use plastics. Starting in April, it will no longer hand out disposable plastic spoons, replacing them instead with wooden spoons. Nor will there be any more plastic straws – only paper, available upon request.

The company hands out 30 million plastic spoons and 2.5 million straws per year at its 600 Scoop Shops. Jenna Evans, sustainability manager for Ben & Jerry's, points out that, if all these spoons were laid in a line, they'd stretch from Burlington, Vermont, to Jacksonville, Florida. She said in a press release,

"We're not going to recycle our way out of this problem. We, and the rest of the world, need to get out of single-use plastic."

Also part of the company's plan to move away from plastics is its commitment to sourcing better containers for its ice cream. The disposable pints and bowls have been made from FSC-certified paperboard since 2009, but they are lined with a thin coating of polyethylene to create a moisture barrier, which makes them non-recyclable in most places. Evans said, "Over the past year, we have begun an intensive effort to find a biodegradable and compostable coating that meets our product quality requirements."

Ben & Jerry's is owned by Unilever, which is one of the companies that signed on to the Loop pilot project that I wrote about earlier in the week. Unilever has shown a willingness to develop reusable, refillable containers for products and will hopefully provide support to Ben & Jerry's in a similar transition. Häagen-Dazs has already developed a stainless steel ice cream container that could possibly be a model for Ben & Jerry's.

Loop Häagen-Dazs ice cream© Loop (used with permission)

Greenpeace celebrated the announcement, with Oceans Campaign director John Hocevar praising the company's clear, short-term targets.

"Greenpeace agrees with Ben & Jerry's that recycling alone will never solve the plastic pollution crisis. Today’s announcement is a great starting point for the company as it works toward eliminating its non-recyclable ice cream containers and developing systems of refill and reuse."

Something to keep in mind is that Ben & Jerry's (and every ice cream shop, for that matter) already has a glorious zero-waste solution in place – the ice cream cone! Much waste could be avoided if people simply took their ice cream in a cone. So take this as a good, justifiable reason to indulge in a tasty waffle cone next time you're craving a scoop.

Ben & Jerry's says it will eliminate single-use plastics
"We're not going to recycle our way out of this problem," the company has said.

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