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Small amounts of ketchup make piles of plastic waste


Published: Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Updated: Tuesday, September 20, 2011 15:09


Photo by Joe Shearer/The Gateway

Heinz ketchup packets have received complaints of being a waste of petroleum and are not green. The student center cafeteria at UNO has a dispensing station for large amounts of condiments to be poured, thus saving the use of plastic packets.

"Can I get ketchup with that, please?"

Upon request, the cashier drops a fistful of ketchup into the bag. Had only a single packet been provided, the customer wouldn't have had the adequate amount of ketchup needed to accompany an order of fries. Imagine just how many of these tiny packets are used and tossed in the trash daily.

Now multiply that by the millions of fast food indulgers in the world.

Ketchup packets are a part of daily frustrations and contribute to a bigger issue, plastic waste. The solution: redesigning and then distributing the ketchup packets nationwide and lessening the waste.

Heinz first designed the ketchup satchel in 1968. The company began receiving customer complaints as soon as 1969. It took 40 years to get them to work out a better design. Heinz announced a redesign in February of 2010. This new design holds three times the amount of the satchel and is in a friendlier dipping container. More than a year has passed since this design has been unveiled, and we still have no such new packet in our McDonald's bag.

Not a big deal? Think again. Plastic is our biggest enemy in the world of trash. We have seen the images of seagulls with plastic rings around their necks. But what is less known to the public is just how bad this problem has become, with plastic waste literally filling our world.

Americans generate 10.5 million tons of plastic waste each year and only recycle 1 to 2 percent of it. That's a lot of garbage. An estimated 14 million pounds of trash is dumped into the ocean yearly. Much of it is plastic. Plastic is a non-biodegradable material and poses a huge risk to the environment. Nearly all of the plastic ever made still exists today. Just imagine how much plastic is seeping out of the coast and into the oceans. Right now, a giant pile of waste half the size of Texas is floating in the Pacific Ocean. This traveling trash mass is called the Pacific Garbage Patch or the Pacific Trash Vortex.

The current condiment packet is composed of plastic, tin foil and mylar. Heinz distributes 11 billion ketchup packets annually to food chains around the world; there are most certainly Heinz labeled plastic ketchup packets among the mass in the ocean.

Ok, so less ketchup packets in the world won't solve the problem of the floating heap, but it's a start. And let's face it, those tiny plastic satchels that are supposed to be a convenience are incredibly inconvenient. Complaints have surfaced for years about the hassle of opening those supposed travel friendly condiments. Distributing a better design will at least appease our daily need for a more practical container. Why not make it an environmentally friendly packet while they are at it? The truth is we want to consume less. But how can we do that without the more eco-friendly option?

So we say to you, fast food chains, give us the option. We love ketchup, but prefer it served guilt-free with a bit of ease of use on the side.

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