Our Opinion: Putting down the plastic

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The global problem of plastic pollution littering our landscape, our oceans, and even the very food we eat can sometimes seem so monumental and daunting that one is tempted to concede defeat. Where do we even begin to tackle a problem so pervasive and widespread?

We start small, as individuals vowing to reduce our own plastic footprint. We band together as communities such as Brattleboro and Wilmington to outlaw single-use plastic bags. And we support businesses that take their own initiative to be part of the solution.

One such business, of course, is Vermont's own, world-famous Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream.

"Ben & Jerry's is mooooving away from single-use plastic," the company announced this week in its trademark humorous fashion.

On a more serious note, the Burlington-based company said its more than 600 Scoop Shops around the world hand out 2.5 million plastic straws a year, and 30 million plastic spoons. If all the plastic spoons used by Ben & Jerry's in the U.S. were placed end to end, they'd stretch from Burlington to Jacksonville, Florida, according to Jenna Evans, Ben & Jerry's global sustainability manager.

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

Just the fact that the company has a global sustainability manager is an impressive sign of corporate responsibility. Even more impressive is the company's commitment to back up its words with action.

As a first step, Ben & Jerry's will no longer offer plastic straws and spoons in any of its hundreds of Scoop Shops in early 2019. The company also announced a plan to address plastic cups and lids used to serve ice cream by the end of 2020.

"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 agree. And we hope consumers reward Ben & Jerry's corporate citizenship with increased sales. That will send a message to other companies that consumers are paying attention to the plastic problem and will spend their money accordingly.


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