Ben & Jerry’s Ditches Single-Use Plastic in Scoop Shops

Ben & Jerry’s
(Photo Credit: Ben & Jerry’s)

Ben & Jerry’s plans to phase out single-use plastic from all of their Scoop Shops worldwide starting early this year. As a first step, the ice cream company will no longer offer plastic spoons and straws.

The Vermont-based corporation, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Unilever, has more than 600 Scoop Shops globally. Normally these locations hand out 2.5 million plastic straws and 30 million plastic spoons annually, according to Jenna Evans, Ben & Jerry’s global sustainability manager.

Starting last August, the company began offering plastic straws available by request only at their Scoop Shops, and many spots had already transitioned to alternatives. Now, Ben & Jerry’s aims to complete the transition to wooden spoons by Free Cone Day on April 9, 2019. Paper straws will be offered by request only, the company added.

By the end of 2020, Ben & Jerry’s intends to find an alternative to clear plastic cups, plastic-lined cups, and plastic lids. These moves are part of the ice cream maker’s effort to prevent discarded plastic from choking the environment and threatening wildlife, Evans said.

“In the short term, eliminating plastic straws and spoons is not going to save the world,” Evans said. “But it’s a good start toward changing expectations. We’re committed to exploring additional options to further reduce the use of disposable items. This transition is the first step for us on a more comprehensive journey to eliminate single-use, petroleum-based plastic in our supply chain.”

Besides Scoop Shops, the company says that in recent years it has been working on ensuring that all the paperboard used in pint cartons and novelty boxes comes from environmentally friendly sources. Finding an alternative to the polyethylene plastic-based coating that serves as a moisture barrier remains a central challenge, though.

To address this, Ben & Jerry’s launched a multi-year project to find packaging that is widely recyclable and compostable, and that can degrade quickly into harmless materials in the natural environment if it escapes waste management. In 2019, the company seeks to reduce the amount of plastic coating on paperboard pints, which should allow the containers to be widely recycled in Europe.

Coated paperboard generally doesn’t get recycled in the United States, regardless of the coating type, the company noted. “Recyclability will remain a challenge until systemic changes are made,” the company said. “We are currently working in collaboration with several coating manufacturers to identify and test biodegradable coatings to replace the plastic-based coating now used.”

We are currently accepting submissions for the 2019 Environmental Leader Awards. Learn more and submit a project or product here.

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