Food service company Sodexo North America aims to dramatically cut its use of single-use plastics, but stopped short of deciding to completely stop using such items.
The company's new North American Single-Use Plastics Reduction Plan, however, does call for the elimination of single-use plastic bags and stirrers by the end of next year.
Expanded polystyrene packaging will be gone by 2025, according to the plan. The company also provides facilities management services.
Sodexo serves locations including schools, sporting venues, hospitals and work sites.
While signaling its general move away from single-use plastics, the company also indicated some items will remain at certain locations.
"The plan is estimated to eliminate over 245 million pieces of single-use items and, because of Sodexo's expertise in providing quality of life services for people with disabilities, patients in hospitals, seniors and people with food allergies, we are confident we'll be able to avoid the unintended consequences that accompany the bans and full-scale eliminations being undertaken elsewhere," the company said.
Plastic straws have become a hot-button issue in the single-use plastics debate, with some municipalities banning their use.
Seattle issued an outright ban of plastic straws and utensils earlier this year, and California recently decided to require customers around the state to specifically ask for straws.
Sodexo will reduce straw use by adopting a similar "by request" policy. The company also will "shift plastic straws to more sustainable materials unless plastic is required for accessibility by 2019."
While the company is giving itself until 2025 to eliminate EPS products, Sodexo did say there will be immediate reductions in use.
In unveiling its announcement, Sodexo provided perspective from an advocacy group for those with disabilities.
"We support efforts to prevent waste. However, it's important to remember that for many people, these aren't convenience products, they are necessities. We're happy to provide Sodexo with guidance that ensures their facilities are fully inclusive of people with disabilities and are fully accessible to everyone," said Jill Houghton, CEO of Disability:IN. Her non-profit helps businesses include people with disabilities.
Greenpeace Oceans Campaign Director John Hocevar praised Sodexo's decision, but in a statement, he also called for other food service companies like Sysco, US Foods and Compass Group to also take "strong action on single-use plastics."
Aramark, another large food service group, previously announced plans to significantly cut back on the use of single-use plastics.
Sodexo said it is committed to eliminating avoidable waste. "But given its expertise in ensuring quality of life services for people with disabilities, patients in hospitals, seniors and people with food allergies, Sodexo is applying a targeted approach that will avoid the unintended consequences that could accompany full-scale elimination," the company said.
Sodexo North America is part of the larger, multinational Sodexo based in suburban Paris.