Ben & Jerry's pledges to ban all single-use plastics by 2020
Ice cream brand Ben & Jerry's has pledged to remove all single-use plastic items and packaging from its products and stores by the end of 2020, replacing them with biodegradable or compostable alternatives.
The B Corp company, which operates more than 600 ‘scoop shops’ across Europe and the US, will remove all plastic cutlery and straws from its stores by April, swapping them for wooden cutlery and paper straws.
Ben & Jerry's estimates that these moves will prevent the distribution of around 2.5 million plastic straws and 30 million plastic spoons on an annual basis.
"In the short term, eliminating plastic straws and spoons is not going to save the world – but it’s a good start towards changing expectations,” Ben & Jerry’s global sustainability manager Jenna Evans said.
“This transition is the first step for us on a more comprehensive journey to eliminate single-use, petroleum-based plastic in our supply chain, and we look forward to reporting on our progress.”
Once the phase-outs are completed, Ben & Jerry’s will then work to develop more sustainable alternatives to its clear plastic drinks cups, plastic-lined ice cream cups, disposable coffee cups and plastic lids. Although some of these items are made using Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified paper, they contain a waterproof plastic lining which makes them hard-to-recycle.
The new alternative packaging lines are set to be rolled out across the company by the end of 2020.
Ben & Jerry's announcement comes shortly after the Vermont-based firm carried out an audit of its plastic footprint to identify the areas in which it could drive the largest resource efficiency impacts.
The audit concluded that, if all the plastic spoons used in Ben & Jerry’s US-based scoop shops each year were laid out, they would stretch from Vermont to Jacksonville, Florida – more than 1,200 miles.
Evans explained that this finding led the company to re-shape its plastic actions away from recyclability and towards biodegradable and compostable alternatives.
"We're not going to recycle our way out of this problem," she said. "We, and the rest of the world, need to get out of single-use plastic."
Her comments were welcomed by Greenpeace US’s ocean campaign director John Hocevar, who praised Ben & Jerry’s for its “clear, short-term” targets on plastics.
“Greenpeace agrees with Ben & Jerry’s that recycling alone will never solve the plastic pollution crisis,” he said.
“Ben & Jerry’s and forward-thinking companies around the world are starting to prioritize the reduction of plastics, rather than relying on additional recycling measures that keep the flow of plastics coming.”
The announcement from Ben & Jerry’s comes at a time when the plastics recycling industry is facing scrutiny from consumers and policymakers, largely due to China’s announcement last January that it would stop accepting 24 types of plastic waste imports.
This, compounded by research suggesting that only 9% of all plastic ever made has been recycled, has led several sustainability professionals and green campaign groups to criticise the extent to which recycling can combat the world’s plastic pollution problem. They include A Plastic Planet co-founder Sian Sutherland, TerraCycle’s chief executive Tom Szaky and Reboot Innovation's director Chris Sherwin.
Advice for eliminating single-use plastics from your business
Sustainability professionals keen to lead a single-use plastics transformation within their organisation now have access to an hour-long webinar featuring advice from Sky, Cranswick, Aquafil and A Plastic Planet. To read the key takeaways from the webinar, which was hosted in association with phs on 17 January, click here.