The Final Straw – Piloting Removal of Single-Use Plastics at Keysight’s Penang Site
2018-09-25 | 6 min read
It was the final straw, literally, for Keysight’s largest manufacturing site in Penang, Malaysia. The site launched a month-long campaign in August 2018 to raise awareness and encourage employees across the facility to say no to plastic straws and other single-use plastics. Keysight is believed to be the first company in Penang’s Free Industrial Zone to take a proactive stance on this worldwide environmental concern, ahead of the Penang state government’s proposal for a blanket ban on single-use plastics by 2019. Keysight is reviewing this pilot effort to explore extending the program to additional Keysight facilities in support of the company’s environmental stewardship initiatives. This single action can go a long way to help build a better planet, a cause Keysight is deeply committed to.
Removing single-use plastics isn’t just for restaurants and coffee shops
Most recently, pledges to become plastic straw-free have been highlighted primarily by restaurants and coffee shops. Starbucks, for example, expects to phase out single-use plastic straws by 2020 (1) McDonald’s has also announced that they are phasing a rollout of paper straws to all 1,361 of their UK and Ireland restaurants, with the target to be completely switched in 2019 (2).
So why all the focus on plastic straws? Well, it isn’t really just about plastic straws. The environmental concern is across various permeations of single-use plastics (including plastic water bottles, bags, cotton swab bases and of course straws) that are not biodegradable and are increasingly found as litter, particularly in our oceans. A 2014 research article (3) estimated that at least 5.25 trillion plastic particles, weighing 268,940 tons, is floating in our seas. And a UK government report (4) noted that, of all the litter in our global seas, approximately 70 percent is plastic.
While going plastic straw-free won’t solve the world’s plastic pollution, minimizing their use is an easy way that anyone can help limit litter in the environment. As a result, some cities and governments are considering policy changes in this space. The European Union has proposed banning single-use plastic products (5), and in the United States, Seattle, Washington has already banned the use of various plastics, including straws (6).
Keysight’s Penang facilities decided to take matters into their own hands and do their part to mitigate plastic pollutants.
The “final straw”
Our Penang site’s “final straw” campaign aligns with Keysight’s position on environmental sustainability, which prioritizes natural resource conservation, emission reduction, waste minimization, and pollution prevention. During the campaign, employees came together to pledge their commitment to eliminate plastic straws from their everyday life. Environmental awareness talks and best practice sharing at the campus also solidified the culture of social responsibility among employees, encouraging them to play their part for a sustainable future.
Because of the campaign, Keysight Penang’s cafeteria, in-house café, coffee kiosk, and other drink counters onsite phased out the practice of routinely dispensing plastic straws with their drinks. Every employee onsite now enjoys their drinks straw-less, eliminated an estimated 8,000 straws a month at the site!
Broadening the impact
Given the success and broad employee interest in this effort, Keysight is now considering phasing the program worldwide to other sites. Again, just another small but collectively significant action that any company, or individual, can take to build a better planet.
As stated recently by Shidah Ahmad, Keysight Order Fulfillment vice president and general manager, and a member of the company’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) executive steering committee “it is our responsibility to shine the light on the damage that simple actions like using a plastic straw can do to the environment. I am confident that our efforts will resonate with others to trigger more action that makes a bigger, more sustainable difference in our environment.”
(1) Starbucks to Eliminate Plastic Straws Globally by 2020, July 9, 2018
(3) "Plastic Pollution in the World's Oceans," Eriksen, Marcus; Lebreton, Laurent C. M.; Carson, Henry S.; Thiel, Martin; Moore, Charles J.; Borerro, Jose C.; Galgani, Francois; Ryan, Peter G.; Reisser, Julia. PLoS One, December 10 2014
(4) "Foresight Future of the Sea", A Report from the UK Government Chief Scientific Adviser, 2018
(5) "EU moves to ban single-use plastics," Reuters, May 28,2018
(6) "Food Service Packaging Requirements," Seattle Public Utilities