Plastic spoons have gone the way of the dodo bird at 600 Ben & Jerry’s scoop shops worldwide.
“We don’t want any of our packaging to be around longer than we are,” said Jenna Evans, the global sustainability manager for Ben & Jerry’s, noting that eliminating plastic spoons is just one way Ben & Jerry’s is moving away from single-use plastics.
Last year, the company handed out 30-million plastic spoons, which it says would be enough to reach from its Vermont headquarters to Florida, if placed end-to-end.
Their replacements are wood and are shaped like a traditional spoon. As part of the same recently-completed initiative, the drinking straws used in the company’s scoop shops are now made of heavy paper.
“They’re birch wood,” Evans said. “Just like a popsicle stick when you were young.”
The company completed the initiative, aimed at reducing plastic waste, in time for its annual Free Cone Day, which is Tuesday.
Ben & Jerry’s pointed out that for an even simpler option for waste reduction, on Free Cone Day or year-round, there’s always the option of ordering a cone for your next treat.
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Ben & Jerry’s CEO Matthew McCarthy admitted it is more expensive to switch to spoons made from a renewable resource, but he said he is certain prices will come down as more companies look for ways to cut plastic waste.
“You can’t let that first barrier of cost be a reason to not do the right thing,” McCarthy said. “We are not going to be able to recycle our way out of the plastics problem.”
The CEO noted he has no plans to raise scoop shop prices to cover the extra cost of the new straws or spoons.
At the Ben & Jerry’s location on the Church Street Marketplace in Burlington, loyal customers weighed in on the changes.
“It’s different, but not really noticeable,” one man said while eating his ice cream inside the scoop shop.
“Then you’re going to have ice cream that tastes like wood,” Heather Machia of Burlington worried after a reporter showed her one of the spoons when she walked by on the Church Street Marketplace. “I’m afraid of splinters.”
In the industry, birch is known for durability and a tendency to not splinter, so that initial fear may be unfounded.
“I actually think it would make me feel a tiny bit less guilty about the whole experience because I wouldn’t be doing something terrible with the [plastic] spoon,” said ice cream fan Carolyn Subin.
Ben & Jerry’s plans other changes by the end of next year, including alternatives to plastic cups and lids in scoop shops. Long-term, the company also is investigating more sustainable packaging for the pints popular in grocery store dessert aisles, Evans said.