Taco Bell Wants to Give Old Sauce Packets New Life

The elephant in the dining room is that single use condiments cause a crushing amount of waste.

The pandemic has caused demand for single-use condiments to skyrocket. Three weeks ago, we covered the great ketchup packet shortage that even has Kraft Heinz struggling to keep paste. 

But the elephant in the dining room is that single use condiments cause a crushing amount of waste. And an unlikely restaurant has been the first to step up with an odd answer to a common problem. 

Taco Bell hands out 8.2 billion hot and mild sauce packets every year. That’s a lot of packets even though they bailed on the verde sauce because it reportedly wasn't very popular despite my demands for a handful with every order. 

Unfortunately, the packets aren't recyclable, so more than 8 billion spent packets wind up in landfills around the world every year. Thinking outside the bun, the company last week announced a new partnership with TerraCycle in an attempt to recycle the flexible film packets. 

The pilot program will begin later this year and should be rather easy, if not a little messy. Based out of New Jersey, TerraCycle is known for collecting materials that are traditionally non-recyclable, everything from face masks, ear plugs and goggles to single-use plastic packaging, cleaning them, melting them and then remolding them into a hard plastic that can be used to make everything from picnic tables and adirondack chairs to jewelry and tote bags.

The partnership is a big step towards Taco Bell's goal of making all consumer-facing packaging recyclable, compostable, or reusable by 2025. 

If the pilot is a success, the program will expand and could serve as a case study for other food establishments. 

Waste is a problem that extends far beyond hot and mild sauces. After Kraft Heinz ramps up production, it will manufacture more than 12 billion packets annually.

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