The combination of the new topper, dubbed Green Grip, and the removal of shrink wrapping on consumer packs will eliminate over 517 tonnes of plastic annually
Heineken has ditched plastic rings on cans in favour of a cardboard topper.
The topper will feature on multi-pack cans before rolling out across the company's entire beer and cider portfolio, including Foster’s and Kronenbourg.
Heineken says it is on track to eliminate this type of plastic from supermarket shelves by the end of 2021.
The new packaging not only removes plastic but minimises the use of materials and reduces waste.
The combination of the new topper, dubbed Green Grip, and the removal of shrink-wrapping on consumer packs will eliminate over 517 tonnes of plastic annually – the equivalent of 94 million plastic bags.
With the installation of the new packaging machinery set to take place at the same time as travel restrictions were implemented across Europe, Heineken UK overcame a significant logistical hurdle by using virtual technology to partly help install the machinery at its brewery in Manchester.
The team used smart glasses to collaborate with Italian engineers on the installation process and receive virtual training on how to operate the machinery safely, allowing fewer people on the shop floor to support social distancing guidelines. Michael Gillane, marketing director at Heineken UK, said: “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. “After announcing our intention in November last year, we’re extremely pleased to launch Green Grip – our plastic free, recyclable and compostable topper in UK supermarkets this summer, especially during such a challenging time. "The easy decision would have been to postpone the launch, but that was never an option. The use of innovative technology, combined with the hard work of our team in Manchester, meant we stay on track to achieve our ambition to eliminate single-use plastic on our products from supermarket shelves. "This is a significant milestone in our journey, and we look forward to rolling the innovation out across the rest of our beer and cider portfolio in 2021.” Nina Schrank, campaigner at Greenpeace, said: "Heineken eliminating masses of plastic from their packaging shows the kind of ambition we need from all food and drinks brands and retailers. "Supermarkets and brands haven't made a dent in the thousands of tonnes of plastic going through checkouts every year. "Retailers removing wasteful bags for life is a start but mustn't be a distraction from the real challenge. To tackle ocean plastic pollution supermarkets simply have to completely eliminate some plastic and reduce all other plastic packaging through introducing reuse and refill systems. "Brands like Nestle, Pepsi, and Unilever have no excuse not to massively cut their plastic packaging too."