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Single-Use Plastics How One Sustainability Leader Took Her Work Home Walking the Walk and Spreading the Sustainable Inspiration

As our Senior Director of Sustainability Engagement and Partnerships, Lisa Manley suspected she might be able to cut some plastic packaging waste out of her life. But it took a hard look in the mirror to see just how much she was using every day. 

Single-use plastics are the convenient materials we all use regularly. They include everything from plastic bags, straws and coffee stirrers to beverage bottles and most food packaging. Less than 10 percent of these materials are recycled globally. Most wind up in landfills and too many are discarded as litter, often finding their way to oceans. 

“I thought it would be interesting to toss all my single-use plastic in a bag and see what it looked like at the end of a month.” — Lisa Manley, Senior Director of Sustainability Engagement and Partnerships

Like many of us, Lisa always looks to start the new year with a resolution. And she knew the Mars packaging strategy would be a big part of her focus at work.

“As someone who has worked in the sustainability field for 20 years, I thought I was pretty good about recycling, but I wasn’t sure exactly how much single-use plastic I used,” she says. “I thought it would be interesting to toss all my single-use plastic in a bag and see what it looked like at the end of a month.”

What she got was a big eye-opener. 

“I knew I had a single-use plastic issue with my beverage consumption. That proved true — I was consuming carbonated beverages and low-calorie juices regularly. What really surprised me was the amount of plastics in the takeout food I ate for lunches and dinners,” she says.

“Every time I ordered a meal — generally a healthy meal, I might add — I got a plastic outer bag, plus a plastic container and sometimes a Styrofoam container for soup. They also came with plastic utensils, plus plastic sauce packages! One meal I ordered included 12 pieces of single-use plastic. This wasn’t an elaborate meal. It was a simple soup and salad!”

As part of our Sustainable in a Generation Plan, Lisa and the sustainability team are working diligently to improve our own product packaging, including material redesign and finding ways to support the recovery and recycling of our used packages. Together with others who've signed the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Global Commitment, we’re working to eliminate problematic or unnecessary packaging, and innovating with an ambition to have 100 percent of our packaging recycled, reused or composted at scale by 2025.

Of course, we’re also encouraging (even challenging!) consumers to do their part.

Lisa’s Top Tips:

  • Take a day or a week to track your use. It will be enlightening. 
  • Drink more water (it’s really good for you!), but use a reusable bottle or cup. 
  • When you eat at fast food spots or order in, bring and use your own utensils.
  • In the office, use your own coffee mug or use a compostable cup, if you have access to compost bins.
  • Have a pet? Use your newspaper and magazine bags to pick up poop. 
  • Carry a reusable bag to the grocery store, to the market and also carry one when you travel — things you buy on the go usually can fit in a reusable bag.

Check out The New York Times’ 9 Ways to Cut Down On Plastics!

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