Our plan will result in a 60% decrease in plastic straws by 2020—or nearly 100 million fewer straws annually in the United States.
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It’s What our Consumers are Asking For
As information about the negative effects of plastic pollution spreads, more and more consumers are becoming alarmed. The majority of respondents to our recent consumer survey are concerned with the overuse of plastic and are trying to reduce personal consumption by recycling and reusing plastic bottles and bags. Cacciola notes, “The easiest way to make an entry into turning the tides on plastics is by reducing what you’re using—going back to the basics of reduce, reuse, recycle.” Some consumers are even going beyond the reduce, reuse, recycle creed by deciding not to shop or dine at businesses that have not invested in efforts to reduce their impact.
This consumer concern is quickly hurtling toward becoming a consumer expectation, and it’s our duty to work together to show them that we not only share their concern but will put action behind fixing the issue. Companies and organizations everywhere are taking note. Big name corporations and brands are getting on board and have made commitments to cut back. However, Cacciola notes that many recent announcements don't go far enough, “straws are the tip of the proverbial plastic iceberg – they’re one of the most visible products you see, but they represent a very small percentage of plastic waste. At Aramark, we developed a holistic, long-term strategy to not only reduce straws, but to look at other single-use plastics, commit to increasing reusables, to work with our partners and suppliers on product innovation, and to educate and enable consumers.”
How We’re Working Together
To picture the complexity of this issue, Cacciola encourages you to mentally walk through your day and think about all the things you run into that are single-use plastic. “If you multiply that across multiple countries in a food service operation as big and complex as Aramark, you must step back and ask the question of ‘where do you start?’” says Cacciola. Our first challenge is in how integrated single-use plastics are in our world, they’re everywhere. Our second challenge centers around the diversity of places where we operate. Varying geographies, types of services, and consumer needs —all add layers of logistic complexity to solving this issue.
Some locations simply won’t be able to accommodate a complete removal of single-use disposable plastics, which could be for a number of reasons. “We will always have straws available upon request for people who ask for them,” ensures Cacciola, “While we’re making a significant effort to drastically reduce single-use plastics, we also recognize that there are certain consumers – whether hospital patients, customers with disabilities, or anyone who has a strong personal preference – who may prefer to use a straw.”
Our 'Sip Smarter’ campaign alerts customers about the changes, where they can find straws upon request, and ways they can reduce personal consumption of single-use plastics.
We’re working closely with our operational teams to accommodate unique environments and consumer demands to ensure they have an action plan that works for their circumstances, while keeping their consumers in the loop. Our ‘Sip Smarter’ consumer marketing campaign complements operational actions with messaging that helps to minimize plastic consumption. For example, some locations will simply encourage customers to skip the straw, while others will inform consumers that straws are available upon request. At the end of the day, our actions should strike a balance between benefiting the environment and still providing great service to our customers along the way.
The Path Ahead
Phasing out single-use plastics will help to stop waste before it is generated, supporting our ongoing Green Thread commitment to reduce our environmental impact – echoing that what goes in to and what comes out of our oceans matters to us. Our partnership with the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program has resulted in our global position on responsible sourcing for wild-caught and farm-raised seafood products, and details our purchasing practices, commitment to reporting, and approach to stakeholder engagement. We work to minimize waste that may end up in our oceans by promoting recycling efforts, and by finding new ways to reduce packaging materials across operations. Our commitment to reduce single-use plastics is a significant component of this effort.
The most important element of this plan? The future. “Just because we’ll be posting the ‘Sip Smarter’ campaign signs, that doesn’t mean we’re done. Straws and stirrers are just the first thing we are doing. We are actively working to address reusable products and reducing other items within the full scope of single-use plastics like bags and cutlery,” notes Cacciola. “If we were to convert even half of our consumers to reusables such as coffee mugs and cutlery, we could significantly reduce the single-use plastics in those categories. We’re continually looking for new categories and innovative ways to offer alternatives.”