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Nine years and $1.2 million later, Heinz has a recyclable plastic ketchup cap for squeezable bottles

A squeezable bottle of Heinz Ketchup upside down against a background.
Image Credit: Pedro Duriban

Lettuce mustard up some praise for one condiment company that's trying to ketchup with consumer demands for sustainability.

The Kraft Heinz Company has spent $1.2 million over the past nine years trying to make the seemingly impossible possible. And this year, the company said it finally had its solution... A recyclable cap for its squeezable ketchup bottles.

The feat, reported in Fast Company earlier this month, is an example of how companies are (sort of, kind of) responding to consumer demands for more environmentally sustainable products.

The caveat, as FastCo's Adele Peters noted, is that Heinz's new cap is made from the same material as plastic water bottles. The products CAN be recycled, but in the U.S. the likelihood is that they won't.

The original cap used a material called silicone which was flexible and provided the right proportions for optimum squirtability (not a word), but was, for all intents and purposes, not recyclable.

So this is a step up in that the new cap, first announced last year, is recyclable.

“The biggest challenges were getting to similar performance of the current closure, addressing the challenges of the current one, and meeting our consumers’ needs . . . which led to the 45 iterations,” says Kim Bertens-Vlems, an international senior packaging manager at Kraft Heinz based in the Netherlands told Fast Company. “Changing some of the aspects affected the other criteria, therefore getting the balance right was the main challenge.”

To give a sense of the scale at which people buy -- and toss -- Heinz single use plastic ketchup bottles, the company sold over 1 billion in 2021 alone.

Switching to the new bottle cap could mean that waste which could fill 35 Olympic swimming pool would avoid being landfilled -- but that's only if America recycled.

And America doesn't recycle.

"While we know we still have more to do, from a sustainability and environmental perspective this is positive news," said Jojo de Noronha, President of Kraft Heinz Northern Europe.

The company has set itself a goal of making all of its products either recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025.

This new bottle cap takes care of a small piece of the recyclable pledge, and Heinz also has programs under way to tackle both the compostable and reusable components.

The company has partnered with Loop in various locations in the U.S., U.K., and Canada to provide reusable, refillable options for consumers. Loop containers can be taken back to stores to be cleaned and refilled while shoppers pick up fresh bottles.

And it's got a paper bottle in the works through a partnership with a company called Pulpex.

“Packaging waste is an industrywide challenge that we must all do our part to address,” said Kraft Heinz CEO Miguel Patricio, in a May statement announcing the Pulpex partnership. “That is why we are committed to taking steps to explore sustainable packaging solutions across our brands at Kraft Heinz, offering consumers more choices. This new HEINZ bottle is one example of how we are applying creativity and innovation to explore new ways to provide consumers with the products they know and love while also thinking sustainably.”

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