In debuting across the first three beer brands, the move is set to eliminate over 517 tonnes of plastic annually. This is the equivalent of 94 million plastic bags.
With travel restrictions hindering the travel of engineers, virtual technology such as smart glasses was used by engineers to install new machinery at Heineken’s Manchester factory.
Virtual tech beats coronavirus restrictions
The new Green Grip cardboard topper not only removes plastic, but minimises the use of materials and reduces waste, says Heineken.
The installation of the new packaging machinery had been set to take place at the same time as travel restrictions were implemented across Europe earlier this year.
Heineken, however, overcame this ‘significant logistical hurdle’ by using virtual technology to help install the machinery at its Manchester Brewery. The team in Manchester were able to use smart glasses to collaborate with Italian engineers during the installation process, as well as receiving virtual training for operating the machinery.
Postponing launch ‘never an option’
Heineken UK says that, despite ‘major operational obstructions’ posed by COVID-19, it is on track to achieve its goal to remove this type of plastic from supermarket shelves by the end of 2021.
Michael Gillane, marketing director, Heineken UK, calls the new tech a game changer: “For so long, the plastic pack rings on cans of beer and cider have been rightly scrutinised,” he said.
“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.”
With the new technology having been piloted at the Manchester brewery, Heineken’s Tadcaster and Hereford sites are set to follow in March 2021.
Debuting this month on Heineken, Foster’s and Kronenbourg 1664 cans, the topper will eventually roll out across Heineken’s entire beer and cider portfolio, which includes Strongbow, Desperados, Amstel, Birra Moretti and Old Mout.