Heineken UK is eliminating plastic rings and shrink wrapping from its entire line of beer and cider sold in multi-pack cans. The move is expected to remove 517 tonnes of plastic annually from the supply chain, which is the equivalent of 94 million plastic bags a year.
Plastic rings have been used to hold cans together for more than 50 years. Not only are plastic rings wasteful, they can also harm wildlife, which is why many people cut the rings before tossing them. Heineken is eliminating the need for plastic toppers and introducing a more eco-friendly alternative: a sustainably sourced cardboard topper that is 100% recyclable and compostable.
The Dutch company has invested £22m (approximately $28m USD) in new technology and production facilities to create this innovative topper that is robust and easy to grip. Heineken, Foster’s and Kronenbourg 1664 will be the first to see the change starting in April 2020. Then, by the end of 2021, all of the company’s other brands sold in multipack cans, including Strongbow, Bulmer’s, Red Stripe and John Smith’s, will adopt the more sustainable topper as well.
The pledge to eliminate plastic rings from the UK is the latest commitment in Heineken’s ‘Brewing a Better World’ strategy. Other tactics have included ‘light-weighting’ glass bottles and aluminum cans, deposit return schemes at festivals to encourage recycling, and decreasing CO2 through investments in new technology.
“The effect of single-use plastic is having on our planet can’t be ignored,” said Cindy Tervoort, UK Marketing Director of Heineken. “Creating an eco-friendly solution that eliminates plastic while still meeting the demands of our beer and cider drinkers has been a big focus in our business.”
The move is a significant milestone in Heineken’s journey to eliminate single-use plastic. But the company isn’t the first brewer to ditch plastic toppers. Other companies like Carlsberg, Corona, and Guinness have all made efforts to eliminate plastic rings from their packaging.
Heineken’s effort to create more sustainable packaging is commendable, but what about other markets outside of the UK? Heineken hasn’t announced any plans to bring the innovative cardboard topper to the U.S. or other regions of the world, but we’re hoping the change comes soon.