When it comes to packaging, Yum Brands is putting sustainability top of mind

The parent company of KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell has established a new packaging policy with the aim to roll out more sustainable materials.
Yum! Brands packaging.
The new policy provides a blueprint for Yum Brands to develop eco-friendlier packaging. / Photo courtesy of Yum Brands

Yum Brands wants to develop more sustainable packaging.

The parent company of KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and The Habit Burger Grill has established a new packaging policy that seeks to reimagine some of its classic packaging, such as KFC's chicken bucket and Pizza Hut's pizza boxes.   

The policy calls for getting rid of unnecessary packaging, shifting to more sustainable materials and supporting better recycling systems and reusable products, according to a press release.

Yum noted that while each brand is currently on a different stage of sustainable packaging development, this new policy provides a blueprint for the future. 

"It’s our responsibility as the world’s largest restaurant company to help solve for the amount of waste that ends up in landfills,” said Jon Hixson, Yum's chief sustainability officer and vice president of global government affairs, in the release. “And for years, we’ve been diligently working on this challenge, and it’s now been unified across the 150-plus countries and territories in which we operate, so that’s what’s really exciting.”

Transitioning to more sustainable materials

One area of focus for Yum is reducing its use of unrecoverable plastics, which cannot be recycled and are often found in wrappers, cups, lids and cutlery. Yum says that as its restaurants move away from unrecoverable plastics, it plans to source more sustainable materials.

Pizza Hut, which uses primarily corrugated cardboard, has already eliminated plastics in consumer-facing packaging at its restaurants in India and Brunei. Meanwhile, Pizza Hut units in New Zealand are 95% plastic free and those in Australia are 90% plastic free.

KFC is taking a “mindful approach” when transitioning to more sustainable materials, according to Susan Miles, the brand's global director of sustainability and packaging. Worldwide, the brand has moved away from Styrofoam, opting for recyclable plastic or fiber-based containers. In addition, several KFC markets have eliminated plastic straws, cutlery and bags. The brand is looking to adopt additional practices developed in its individual markets, like a widely recyclable, plastic-free bucket in the U.K.

“By using new materials and methods of making buckets, we are able to source a more sustainable alternative while staying true to our iconic bucket, which our customers know and love,” Miles said in a statement.

Taco Bell also has plans for more sustainable packaging, and is rolling out recyclable wraps and bags, according to a press release. In addition, it's converting its consumer-facing packaging to recyclable, compostable or reusable materials, and is adding recycling or composting bins in restaurants where infrastructure permits. Last year, the chain expanded its sauce packet recycling program to accept used packets of any sauce brand.

Pizza Hut is also trying to make its packaging more recyclable. Currently, its pizza boxes in Australia are made from 100% recycled content, and in the U.K, they're made with 70% recycled content.

“There has been a lot of progress made, at the global level, in terms of creating a more sustainable ecosystem of products and operational efficiencies throughout our restaurant system. At Yum, we’re committed to good growth," Hixson said. "We can’t do that without a plan to preserve our planet.”

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