Plastic Straws? Are You Ready For This?

by Paul Schlossberg
Posted On: 7/30/2018

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Paul Schlossberg
The headline in USA Today was: “McDonald's is being sucked into the movement to ban plastic straws.” Even if you do not offer straws, plastic straws to be specific, this is still an issue you will need to address – if not now, it will require your attention soon.

Why are plastic straws so important? Because the real issue is recycling – and plastic is being recycled at a very low rate. It was estimated to be 9% according to data cited in the USA Today article.  

McDonald’s is taking action. The article goes on, “McDonald's points out, too, that it already has pledged to make all customer packaging from renewable, recycled or certified sources by 2025, up from 50%. It also will institute recycling at all its restaurants by 2025, up from 10%.”

What exactly are you doing about recycling? Are you working with the locations you serve to place recycling containers for glass, cans, paper packaging and plastic containers? Have you placed compost bins for food waste? If you are offering recycling efforts, even on a small scale, how can you expand it to other sites?

You might be thinking that this really has nothing to do with my business. You’re wrong for a number of reasons:

1.    On a personal level: We all have a responsibility to be good users of the scarce resources on planet Earth.

2.    On a professional level: There have been numerous market research studies confirming that people, especially millennials, want to do business with people and companies actively “doing good things.”

3.    Your coffee business: About seven years ago, as part of a client project, we met with a leading coffee brand. The discussion turned to the number of single-serve coffee pods being used annually. Here was a major manufacturer thinking about their coffee business and recycling. (At that point, there was very little news about recyclable coffee pods.)  

An article in The New York Times in April 2016 noted that, “Keurig Green Mountain last year sold more than nine billion of its traditional single-serve plastic coffee pods — or K-Cups.” The company described its focus on recycling: “Keurig says it will start selling these recyclable K-Cups later this year. The new cups will make up half of its supply by 2018, it says, and all by 2020. But in the end, this may only make a moderate impact: Just because something is recyclable, that doesn’t mean it will actually be recycled.”

The last sentence in the paragraph above ends with “…doesn’t mean it will actually be recycled.” That is where you can play an important role. Go to your location contacts and ask them if they are interested in working with you on a recycling initiative. It’s likely that many of your accounts already recycle – whether it is paper, cardboard, manufacturing scrap or other materials. My expectation is that you’ll get a lot of positive responses.

There is good work being done about recycling in our industry among manufacturers, including Keurig (noted above). Restaurant chains, as noted about McDonald’s (above), are now putting a priority on recycling and sustainability initiatives.

Take a minute to think through how you can make recycling and sustainability a positive for your business. Look at every level of your business – work backward from the locations you serve to your warehouse and offices. Where do you have opportunities to recycle? You receive thousands of shipping cases – whether cardboard or film-wrapped. What proportion of these shipping cases did you recycle in the past year?  

As you get more involved with recycling and sustainability, do not be shy about your accomplishments. You should post results and positive news in your office and warehouse. Go beyond that and make your location contacts aware of the progress being made. Then go even further and find ways to get the “news” to shoppers at your locations. Remember two specific things: (1) People want to do business with companies doing “good” things. (2) As the famous poet Walt Whitman once said, “If you done it, it ain't bragging.”

If you recycle more stuff, maybe it will help you sell more stuff.





» Paul Schlossberg is president of D/FW Consulting, working with clients to merchandise and market products in impulse-intense selling environments, such as vending, onsite foodservice and convenience stores. Based in the Austin, TX, area, he can be reached at Paul@DFWConsulting.net or (972) 877-2972 or www.DFWConsulting.net.