Heineken UKannounced today to replace plastic rings on multi-pack cans by “its innovative 100% plastic-free cardboard topper”. Starting with a UK-wide roll-out of its brands Heineken, Foster’s and Kronenbourg 1664, the company will after some time also sell all its other brands in the UK with this innovative packaging. The necessary machinery was at first installed at its Manchester brewery, with its Tadcaster and Hereford sites to follow in March 2021. The company promises to eliminate this type of plastic from supermarket shelves latest by the end of 2021.
Other beverage companies, including Carlsberg (inside.beer, 5.2.2019), AB InBev (inside.beer, 23.6.2019) and Guinness (inside.beer, 15.4.2019) already announced other solutions for its multi-pack cans.
The new packaging not only removes plastic but minimises the use of materials and reduces waste. The combination of the new topper, dubbed Green Grip, and the removal of shrink wrapping on consumer packs will eliminate over 517 tonnes of plastic annually – the equivalent of 94 million plastic bags.
With the installation of the new packaging machinery set to take place at the same time as travel restrictions were implemented across Europe, Heineken UK overcame a significant logistical hurdle by using virtual technology to partly help install the machinery at its brewery in Manchester. The team in Manchester used smart glasses to collaborate with Italian engineers on the installation process and receive virtual training on how to operate the machinery safely, allowing fewer people on the shop floor to support social distancing guidelines.
Michael Gillane, marketing director, Heineken UK, said: “This is a game changer – for so long, the plastic pack rings on cans of beer and cider have been rightly scrutinised. We have been working on a solution for several years – one that is durable, totally recyclable, and completely plastic free. Importantly, this is an innovation that can be used at scale on hundreds of millions of cans every year.
“After announcing our intention in November last year, we’re extremely pleased to launch Green Grip – our plastic free, recyclable and compostable topper in UK supermarkets this summer, especially during such a challenging time. The easy decision would have been to postpone the launch, but that was never an option. The use of innovative technology, combined with the hard work of our team in Manchester, meant we stay on track to achieve our ambition to eliminate single-use plastic on our products from supermarket shelves. This is a significant milestone in our journey, and we look forward to rolling the innovation out across the rest of our beer and cider portfolio in 2021.”
James Bull, Head of Packaging at Tesco said, “We have plans to remove all non-recyclable and excess packaging from our business and are working with a number of brands to achieve this. It’s great to see Heineken UK eliminate plastic from its cans of beer – our customers want to use less plastic, so I’m sure they’ll appreciate this change.”
Commenting on overcoming challenges posed by Covid-19 in commissioning the Green Grip line Brewing & Operations Director, Matt Callan said: “Introducing a brand new technology is challenging at the best of times, but doing so at a time of social distancing measures and when we’ve adapted our operations to meet heightened supermarket demand is a testament to the adaptability and determination of our brewery and project teams. We continue to look at further options to eliminate single-use plastic, including in our logistics and distribution network as we remain committed to eliminating unnecessary plastic in our total supply chain.”