Heineken UK Swaps Plastic Rings for Cardboard Topper

(Photo: Heineken’s Green Grip cardboard topper. Credit: Heineken UK)

by | Aug 20, 2020

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Heineken UK Swaps Plastic Rings for Cardboard Topper

(Photo: Heineken’s Green Grip cardboard topper. Credit: Heineken UK)

Heineken UK has started replacing the plastic rings on multipack cans with plastic-free cardboard toppers. Paired with eliminating shrink wrapping on consumer packs, the move should save more than 517 metric tons of plastic annually, the company said.

“For so long, the plastic pack rings on cans of beer and cider have been rightly scrutinized,” said Heineken UK marketing director Michael Gillane. “We have been working on a solution for several years — one that is durable, totally recyclable, and completely plastic-free.”

Called Green Grip, the new toppers are made from FSC-certified cardboard material supplied by Spanish packaging group Alzamora, Printweek reported. Heineken UK began using the toppers for packs of Heineken, Foster’s, and Kronenbourg 1664 cans. Next the UK company plans to roll the toppers out across their entire beer and cider portfolio.

Currently Heineken UK has a goal of eliminating plastic packaging, including the can rings, from supermarket shelves by the end of 2021. Covid-19 created unique challenges for making the switch to cardboard, according to the company. The new packaging machinery was scheduled to be installed right as travel became restricted in Europe.

In response, the Manchester brewery team relied on virtual technology. They used smart glasses to collaborate with Italian engineers on the installation process and receive training on operating the machinery safely with fewer people on the shop floor to allow for distancing, Heineken UK said.

After a successful pilot in Manchester, the company plans to expand Green Grip production to its Tadcaster and Hereford sites in March 2021. Besides being plastic-free, each cardboard topper is recyclable and compostable, the company says.

Finding sustainable alternatives to plastic rings has become a priority for the beverage industry in recent years. Copenhagen-based brewery Carlsberg developed a design that glues cans together, called the Snap Pack, in late 2018. Diageo, which owns brands including Guinness, moved to replace the plastic ring carriers and shrink-wrap on their multipack beer products with 100% recyclable and biodegradable cardboard in April 2019.

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