“The plastic problem is horrific,” says Bon Appétit CEO and cofounder Fedele Bauccio. “When I heard the stats and learned how much damage is being done by straws — a product of convenience — my gut reaction was, we have to change this!”
“Bon Appétit’s move to eliminate single-use plastic straws sends a resounding signal to U.S. companies that the time for change is upon us,” says Kate Melges, Greenpeace USA’s oceans campaigner based in Seattle, who leads Greenpeace’s Ocean Plastics work. “Its policy shows strong leadership within the food service sector, and most importantly proves to all companies that rely on throwaway plastics that it can be done. We can no longer rely on half measures to tackle the plastic pollution crisis. Companies must reduce their plastic footprints to save our communities, waterways, and oceans. This decision provides a tremendous foundation for Bon Appétit to build upon.”
Last month the University of Portland became the first U.S. university to ban plastic straws, with more campuses on the way. In addition to being a client of Bon Appétit Management Company, UP also happens to be CEO Fedele Bauccio’s alma mater. “This proves it can be done, so why are we still using them anywhere?” he challenged Bon Appétit’s senior leadership team.
The purchasing group leapt into action. In fiscal 2017, the company purchased 16.8 million plastic straws and almost 420,000 plastic stirrers. (Bon Appétit has long set wooden stirrers as its standard, purchasing 9.1 million of them in fiscal 2017, but until now had not banned the plastic version.) Paper straws will be available to guests with physical challenges or who strongly feel they need a straw.
The plastic-straw ban is the latest entry on Bon Appétit’s long list of industry-leading initiatives, starting with launching its Farm to Fork local-purchasing program in 1999 and committing to sustainable seafood in 2002, cage-free shell eggs in 2005, and more. Bon Appétit recently received the Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council’s Leadership Award for Overall Sustainable Purchasing Program, the council’s highest honor.
In addition to changing the company’s own purchasing habits, Bon Appétit hopes to magnify the impact of its choice by educating guests about the damage plastic straws cause to the environment and the nonrenewable resources they use. With more information, perhaps they’ll skip straws at non-Bon Appétit venues as well.