Heineken UK has pledged to eliminate plastic rings by the end of next year, and the new topper – dubbed ‘Green Grip’ will eventually be rolled out across the drinks firm’s entire beer and cider portfolio, involving hundreds of millions of cans a year.
The introduction has been made despite challenges caused by Covid-19 with the installation of the new packaging machinery required coinciding with lockdown, and the machinery itself coming from Italy.
The machinery was made by Italian firm Rama, with virtual/augmented reality technology deployed to allow the installation to continue.
Brewing and 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.
Callan said the business would continue to look at further options to eliminate single-use plastic, including in its logistics and distribution network “as we remain committed to eliminating unnecessary plastic in our total supply chain”.
Heineken’s team at its Manchester brewery used smart glasses to collaborate with Italian engineers on the installation process, and also received virtual training on how to operate the machinery safely.
This allowed social distancing guidelines to be maintained, with fewer people needing to be on the shop floor.
The cardboard toppers, made of FSC-certified material, are supplied by Spanish packaging group Alzamora, which holds the patent.
Heineken UK marketing director Michael Gillane commented: “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.”
Heineken’s Tadcaster and Hereford sites are set to follow suit in spring 2021.
It’s also possible that Heineken could use the printable area on the branded toppers for promotions in future.