Berry Global Group, Inc. and Taco Bell are making strides toward a more circular approach to sustainable packaging with the launch of a new clear, all-plastic cup containing mechanically recycled post-consumer resin (PCR). The move represents progress by both organizations in meeting their publicly stated sustainability commitments: Taco Bell’s 2022 Commitments and Berry’s Impact 2025.
Designed for circularity, the new, clear polypropylene (PP) cup will be testing in select Taco Bell U.S. restaurants in late 2022, with 30-ounce cups using 10% recycled, high-density polyethylene (HDPE). This conversion from Taco Bell’s virgin plastic cup and lid set will help divert waste from landfill and incineration while simultaneously improving its carbon footprint through the use of recycled plastic.
“For years, we have collaborated with Taco Bell to make integral steps toward a more sustainable cup solution—one that is lighter weight, and proves the economic value and demand for recycled material, without compromising the product’s recyclability,” says Tom Salmon, Berry Global’s chairman and CEO. “The environmental benefits we anticipate from this pilot are made possible through one of the most innovative substrates available. I’m proud of our joint commitments to advance the plastics industry and quick-serve restaurant market with leading solutions that others can replicate to advance the transition to a circular, net-zero economy.”
Problem solving in action
With their history in evolving the single-use drink cup and lid, Berry and Taco Bell developed a progressive solution with lower environmental impact than cups made from virgin materials.
The recycled HDPE used in the new cup contains food-grade content from products such as recycled milk jugs. After trialing many options for recycled content, the availability of HDPE coupled with favorable lifecycle assessment (LCA) results led Berry to this latest clear cup solution incorporating post-consumer recycled plastic.
“By testing this new cup, Taco Bell is taking another positive step forward in identifying the most viable ways to meet our consumer-facing packaging commitments,” says Missy Schaaphok, Taco Bell's Director of Global Nutrition & Sustainability. “We’re excited for this collaboration with Berry Global as we continue working towards creating industry-wide packaging solutions.”
Innovation through partnership and commitment
The new cup is just the latest in Berry and Taco Bell’s history of sustainable packaging collaboration. In 2018, Taco Bell and Berry took initial steps to improve cup recyclability with a conversion from expanded polystyrene (EPS) and coated paper to a clear, more recyclable 100% plastic option. One year later, Berry helped Taco Bell move fully out of coated paper for cold beverages to even lighter weight clear plastic cups and lids. From 2018 to 2021, Taco Bell converted a total of 66.9 million pounds of difficult to recycle materials and saved 9.5 million pounds through light-weighting due to its shift from PS and coated paper to a clear plastic solution. This progress and partnership with Berry is all part of Taco Bell Corp.’s commitment to transition all, consumer-facing packaging to be recyclable, compostable or reusable by 2025 across the globe.
While light-weighting and material conversions continue to be a sustainability focus, Berry’s long-term strategy is to reduce the use of virgin fossil fuels through the use of recycled and renewable content. Under consultation from the Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR), this cup is a good candidate for the new Meets Preferred Guidance program because it uses standard polymers (PP and HDPE). Berry plans to submit the design as soon as the program is ready to evaluate it.