Heineken to eliminate shrinkwrap and plastic rings from multipacks sold in the UK

The new packaging is recyclable at kerbside and compostable. Image: Heineken UK

The brewer has committed to invest £22m in new manufacturing machines, processes and materials to remove these plastic items from products and replace them with a cardboard “topper” that holds can multipacks together. The topper purports to be recyclable, compostable and made from cardboard that is certified as sustainably sourced.

Heineken UK believes that the switch will mitigate the use of 517 tonnes of plastic annually throughout its supply chain, once the cardboard toppers are rolled out across all multipacks.

Starting in April 2020, multipacks of Foster’s, Heineken and Kronenbourg 1664 containing the new packaging will be stocked by major UK retailers. The new packaging will then be applied to Strongbow, Bulmer’s and John Smith’s by the end of 2021.

Heineken’s UK marketing director Cindy Tervoort said the introduction of the new packaging innovation marks a “significant milestone in [the company’s] journey to eliminating all single-use plastics.”

“The effect single-use plastic is having on our planet can’t be ignored and creating an eco-friendly solution that eliminates plastic while still meeting the demands of our beer and cider drinkers has been a big focus in our business,” Tervoort said.

Raising a plastic-free toast

The move from Heineken builds on several key projects around packaging innovation, including schemes to design lighter-weight versions of its glass bottles and trials of deposit-return schemes at festivals.

It also comes as several other key players in the beverage space are investing in plastic-free packaging. Budweiser Brewing Group UK and Ireland has vowed to remove all plastic rings from its multipacks by the end of 2020, replacing them with paperboard ‘clips’ and boxes, for example, while Diageo is using cardboard sleeves and boxes to house its Guinness, Smithwicks and Harp multipacks.

Perhaps one of the most ambitious project portfolios in this space is managed by Carlsberg, which, after developing plastic-free ‘snap packs’, is now sharing its prototype paper bottles with the likes of Coca-Cola, The Absolut Company and L’Oréal.

According to a recent survey of 3,395 European residents, commissioned by DS Smith, six in ten people would be willing to pay more for food and drink products with less or no plastic packaging. The average limit for the increase in their spend was found to be 12.5%.

Sarah George

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