Heinz Spent 185,000 Hours Redesigning Their Ketchup Bottle Cap to Be 100% Recyclable

Heinz recyclable Ketchup cap

After 185,000 hours, 8 years, and 45 iterations, Heinz has redesigned their superior plastic tops to be completely recyclable.

Why so much? Why’d it cost them $1.2 million in R&D? The top was not easily recyclable before, which resulted in as many as 1 billion of them every year going into landfills.

For years Heinz had the market cornered on the only ketchup bottle that moms could buy without their kids complaining over it. The superiority of its the silicone stop valve that allowed the perfect, consistent stream of uninterrupted ketchup that never spilled out over the edge, was obvious for years over other brands.

That original silicone valve however made the top “very difficult to recycle,” as companies had to separate the valve from the rest of the top—too much to ask in many cases.

“The biggest challenges were getting to similar performance of the current closure, addressing the challenges of the current one, and meeting our consumers’ needs… which led to the 45 iterations,” said Kim Bertens-Vlems, an international senior packaging manager at Kraft Heinz based in the Netherlands.

“Changing some of the aspects affected the other criteria, therefore getting the balance right was the main challenge.”

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Heinz created 45 different designs in total on the mission to create the new cap, which were printed in-house using a state-of-the-art 3D printer. They eventually settled on a polypropylene design that performs just as before, but can be recycled immediately.

The move will mean a potential one billion plastic caps—enough to fill 35 Olympic swimming pools—can be recycled, instead of finding their way into landfill.

The new design could be perfect for other products like shampoo, and Heinz told Fast Company they are interested in sharing the design with other corporations who face similar difficulties.

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There is currently no set date for a world-wide corporate rollout, but the caps will be launching on Heinz bottles in the UK this year.

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