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Leon Kaye headshot

Ben & Jerry’s Steps Up, Resists Single Use Plastics

By Leon Kaye
Time to resist single use plastics, says Ben & Jerry's

Time to resist single use plastics, says Ben & Jerry's

Ben & Jerry’s has been a brand taking a stand long before corporate activism became a growing movement within the business community. Although the brand has been part of the Unilever family since the beginning of this century, activism is still part and parcel of the company’s mission – as in speaking out against various Trump White House’s policies and even naming a flavor “Resist” that helps fund four nonprofits. From having a supply chain that includes giving workers a second chance to going fair trade, Ben & Jerrys has long been a step ahead the rest of the competition.

Now the venerable ice cream brand is swimming against the single-use plastic tide. This week, the Vermont-based company announced that it is moving (or according to a press release, “mooooving”) away from single-use plastic at its retail locations.

This will be a difficult but impressive move for Ben & Jerry’s if it works out. The company says its shops pass out around 2.5 million plastic straws and a whopping 30 million plastic spoons a year. Line them up end to end, and all those single-use spoons would form a trail from Lake Champlain to Northern Florida.

Having a tidy recycling bin in each and every shop isn’t the solution, according to the company. “We’re not going to recycle our way of this problem,” said Jenna Evans, the company’s global sustainability manager in a public statement.

So how will Ben & Jerry’s scoop itself out of its mound of plastic waste? The company will include these three steps:

  • Since last August, the company has made plastic straws available only by customers’ request, and Ben & Jerry’s says many of its stores have already shifted to alternatives such as paper straws. Paper straws will be available by request starting in early April.
  • By April 9 (which by the way, is Ben & Jerry’s Free Cone Day), all spoons will be made out of wood. No word on what exactly that wood will be, and whether it will be from responsible or certified sources.
  • By the end of next year, the company says it will settle on alternatives to its plastic-lined cups and plastic lids.

For those who indulge by purchasing Ben & Jerry’s pints at the supermarket, the company is also looking for a new packing solution. Ben & Jerry’s has been sourcing Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified paper for a decade, but those containers are difficult to keep out of landfill or the incinerator – a coating applied to the paper makes them difficult to either recycle or compost. Could a plant-based solution be on the horizon? The company says it is looking at alternatives for now.

Ben & Jerry’s announcement itself is not groundbreaking; the company acknowledges these steps are not enough to stop the flow of plastic into the globe’s oceans. Nevertheless, these changes send a signal to food companies: prove that you’re several paces ahead of consumer trends, or pretty soon, you’ll be left behind.

Image credit: Ben & Jerry’s

Leon Kaye headshot

Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.

Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.

Read more stories by Leon Kaye