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Taco Bell expands program to recycle used sauce packets

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Last Updated on September 10, 2021 10:22 am

Taco Bell has announced the expansion of a program to increase recycling and reduce the 8.2 billion sauce packets that end up in landfills.

The program, which began as an initial trial earlier this year, is a partnership between Taco Bell and TerraCycle. TerraCycle is an international recycling leader that collects traditionally non-recyclable items, cleans them, then melts and remolds them into hard plastic that can be used to make recycled products.

Here's how the program works:

  1. Sign up for a TerraCycle account, if you don't already have one.
  2. Collect empty sauce packets within a cardboard box or any other recyclable container you already have on hand.
  3. Once your collection box is full, log into your TerraCycle account to download and print a free shipping label.
  4. Ship your box via UPS.

The above instructions will also be available via QR codes found where customers obtain their restaurant sauce packets: at the drive-thru and inside near condiment stations and trash receptacles.

“It may sound strange to save used hot sauce packets, but TerraCycle has seen success with similar collection programs for coffee capsules, chewing gum and more.”, according to Taco Bell officials.

Taco Bell officials say that the mail-in option is being used since the majority of transactions currently take place at the drive-thru and customers eat their meal out-of-restaurant.

“As simple as it sounds, it's important to remember to first reduce our consumption habits, then reuse products wherever possible, and then recycle,” said Missy Schaaphok, Taco Bell's Director of Global Nutrition & Sustainability. “We're excited that TerraCycle has provided a way for us to extend the life cycle of our iconic sauce packets as we reevaluate the rest of our packaging suite.”

“Since our founding, TerraCycle has made it our mission to ‘Eliminate the Idea of Waste' and provide solutions for items that are not traditionally recyclable curbside,” said Tom Szaky, founder and CEO of TerraCycle. “This unique recycling program not only highlights the forward-thinking nature of Taco Bell, but also marks a huge step forward for the quick service industry on its journey towards more sustainable business practices.”

In making the announcement Taco Bell also stated:

Since announcing the partnership in April, Taco Bell and TerraCycle have been working through logistics, including health and safety considerations, and are simultaneously determining the most feasible way to collect packets in-restaurant. Based on testing and past experience, TerraCycle's tried and true mail-back model will be used to help customers minimize their transportation footprint and ship their box of saved sauce packets once full. The results of this pilot launch will determine the most viable long-term solutions for Taco Bell moving forward. Taco Bell is also testing other ways to reduce packaging waste, like assessing the impact of using quesadilla bags that no longer include PFAs or plastic windows and that use recyclable paper.

Despite the challenges of the last year and a half, Taco Bell recognizes the continued importance of working towards its commitment to make all consumer-facing packaging recyclable, compostable, or reusable by 2025 in its restaurants across the globe.

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