Taco Bell Is Helping Customers Recycle Its Hot Sauce Packets

The popular chain teamed up with TerraCycle in an effort to reduce waste.

April 20, 2021

Photo by: Photo courtesy of Taco Bell

Photo courtesy of Taco Bell

Taco Bell has emerged as an unlikely player in the climate change crusade. The fast-food chain announced Monday that it has partnered with TerraCycle, a New Jersey-based business that specializes in recycling hard-to-recycle materials, in an effort to move beyond its single-use hot sauce packets.

While the condiment packets aren’t traditionally recyclable, TerraCycle intends to give them a second life by creating “flexible film packets” that can be recycled instead of getting sent directly to a landfill. A pilot program with the recyclable packets is slated to launch later this year.

According to a press release, though this change might seem small, it has the potential to make a big impact on the environment. Believe it or not, Taco Bell goes through 8.2 billion sauce packets in the U.S. alone each year, so transforming these packets into something that can finally be recycled is a pretty big deal because it helps the chain generate far less waste.

“In the food industry today, there is no widely available solution for recycling the flexible film packets that are so commonly used for condiments,” Liz Matthews, Taco Bell’s Global Chief Food Innovation Officer, said in a statement. “So, we’re thrilled to leverage the expertise of TerraCycle to recycle our iconic sauce packet packaging in a way that’s as bold and innovative as our menu.”

Though Taco Bell didn’t explain all the details of how this recycling program might work, the chain promised “easy” customer participation that would include free shipping, hinting that Taco Bell eaters could recycle packets from home that they accumulate via drive-thru and take-out orders.

As for TerraCycle’s role? The company plans to clean the used sauce packets and then melt them down so they can be remolded into hard plastic that can be used to make “new recycled products.”

“Now more than ever, consumers don’t want to sacrifice the planet no matter how delicious the meal,” TerraCycle CEO and founder Tom Szaky explained. “Together, Taco Bell and TerraCycle will push the quick service industry by finally finding a way to recycle this type of product. This effort takes us one step closer to keeping packets out of landfills and our mission of ‘Eliminating the Idea of Waste.’”

Additionally, the ability to recycle sauce packets is very important in achieving Taco Bell’s goal of “making all consumer-facing packaging recyclable, compostable, or reusable by 2025” in its eateries around the world. The results of this pilot recycling program are expected to help Taco Bell determine the best, most environmentally friendly answers moving forward, and if the pilot program goes well, it may lead to an expansion.

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