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Taco Bell wants you to mail back your used hot sauce packets. Here’s why

Taco Bell said the packet recycling program is a first step in its efforts to tamp down on packaging waste and will continue exploring other ideas.
Taco Bell packet costume
This Dec. 13, 2010, photo shows a Taco Bell restaurant opening with a person in a taco sauce outfit outside in Mountain View, Calif. The taco chain is now encouraging customers to mail in their used hot sauce packets as part of a new recycling initiative with TerraCycle. (Paul Sakuma | AP Photo)

Taco Bell wants to give your used hot sauce packets “a second life” as part of an effort to tackle packaging waste.

The national fast food chain is calling on customers to mail in their used mild, hot and fire sauce packets by the boxful to be recycled. The move is part of a nationwide pilot program aimed at finding a possible “industry-wide solution for recycling ... single-use food packaging,” the restaurant said in a news release Thursday.

Taco Bell teamed with waste management firm TerraCycle to clean, melt and remold the non-recyclable sauce packets before transforming them into a new recyclable material. This way, they don’t end up in a landfill.

“As simple as it sounds, it’s important to remember to first reduce our consumption habits, then reuse products wherever possible, and then recycle,” Missy Schaaphok, Taco Bell’s director of Global Nutrition & Sustainability, said in a statement. “We’re excited that TerraCycle has provided a way for us to extend the life cycle of our iconic sauce packets as we reevaluate the rest of our packaging suite.”

Taco lovers can pitch in on the effort by collecting empty sauce packets in a box or other recyclable container. Create a TerraCycle account, and when your box is full, log on to download and print a free shipping label. Finally, send your package off in the mail.

The goal? To “eliminate the idea of waste,” according to TerraCycle.

“This unique recycling program not only highlights the forward-thinking nature of Taco Bell, but also marks a huge step forward for the quick service industry on its journey towards more sustainable business practices,” TerraCycle CEO Tom Szaky said in a statement.

Taco Bell said the packet recycling program is a first step in its efforts to tamp down on packaging waste and will continue exploring other ideas.

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