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Green Economy

Taco Bell Wants to Recycle Your Old Fire Sauce Packets

Taco Bell has set aside millions of dollars to make sure those little Mild, Hot, and Fire (and, sometimes, Diablo) sauce packets you get with your takeout order don’t end up in landfills.

Yup, that’s the headline, and it does a pretty good job of letting you know that Taco Bell has set aside millions of dollars to make sure those little Mild, Hot, and Fire (and, sometimes, Diablo) sauce packets you get with your takeout order don’t end up in landfills. And, to be fair, I laughed, too — until I learned that some 8 million pounds of the things end up in landfills every year.

8 million is a lot, and there’s no question that taking 8 million pounds of environmentally damaging plastic out of landfills is an admirable goal, so let’s talk about it. Taco Bell initially ran a pilot program to test the feasibility of a recycling program back in April, in partnership with recycling specialists at TerraCycle.

It works like this: Taco Bell customers sign up for a TerraCycle account and receive a recyclable box to toss empty sauce packets into after use. Once the box is full, customers can print a free shipping label and send the box to a facility that will clean, disinfect, re-fill, and re-use the sauce packets, good as new.  The company says it’s using the mail-in service because the majority of its meals are eaten out-of-restaurant.

For my part, I think this is a worthwhile goal that makes sense for offices, dorms, and other frequent fast-food customer areas where you might see three or four fast food bags in the trash at the end of each work day. Those places already have regular mail service, too, so there’s a minimal addition to the overall carbon footprint to ship these back and forth, and that is significantly outweighed by the benefit of not launching 4000 tons of trash into landfills (at best).

Taco Bell will begin promoting the new recycling program with signage and QR labels in various parts of its 7000 location stores, saying that the TerraCycle program is “the first step, not the last step” in the company becoming a sustainable global brand.

As one of the few places that enabled me to become a fat vegetarian over the last few decades (mmmm … nachos), I have a bit of a soft spot for Taco Bell. And, even though it’s been a while since my last visit, I can’t help but hope this goes well for them. And, you know, the planet. What do you guys think? Is this just the latest example of a company applying a thin coat of greenwash to its fences, or is this a genuine first step towards a greener Taco Bell? Let us know, in the comments.

Source | Images:  Taco Bell, via CNN.

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I've been involved in motorsports and tuning since 1997, and have been a part of the Important Media Network since 2008. You can find me here, working on my Volvo fansite, riding a motorcycle around Chicago, or chasing my kids around Oak Park.


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