Taco Bell Is Finally Making Its Hot Sauce Packets Recyclable

The fast food chain is partnering with a recycling company to make magic happen.

Taco Bell iconic hot sauce packets
Courtesy of Taco Bell

Taco Bell's iconic hot sauce packets are life-changing, even life-saving, but up to this point, they've all met the same fate: ending up in landfills.

Hot sauce packets, like most single-serve condiments, are made with a flexible film that is traditionally non-recyclable. Eager to change that, Taco Bell commissioned cutting-edge recycling company TerraCycle to work some magic and give hot sauce packets a second life.

TerraCycle is a standout in the recycling industry for its commitment to repurposing obscure materials by cleaning them, melting them, and remolding them into hard plastic that can be used to build future products. Starting later this year, the company will make Taco Bell hot sauce packets one of its next experiments.

"Now more than ever, consumers don’t want to sacrifice the planet no matter how delicious the meal," said TerraCycle CEO and founder, Tom Szaky, in a press release. "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.'"

While condiment wrappers may seem like only a tiny burden on the environment, the 8.2 billion hot sauce packets used in the US each year beg to differ. Taco Bell plans to make all of its consumer-facing packaging recyclable, compostable, or reusable by 2025, which means it's time to start seeking solutions for its flexible film wrappers.

Full details of Taco Bell's national recycling pilot program will be unveiled before 2021's end. If all goes well, the chain will be able to check off one more box on its sustainability to-do list.

Other quick service restaurants have also been finding ways to be better stewards of the environment. Burger King started piloting a reusable packaging program in late 2020 to meet its long-term waste-free goal, and Chipotle—technically a fast casual chain—recently introduced a sustainability tracker in its mobile app to emphasize its eco-friendly practices.

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Kyler Alvord is a news writer at Thrillist. Find him on Twitter and Instagram. Or don't. It's really up to you.