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Mentos trains team of raccoons to find and recycle paperboard gum bottles

A raccoon pulls a Mentos container out of the trash
The Mentos Raccoon Recycling Force in action. Source: Mentos

The Mentos paperboard gum bottle was made to be recycled, there's just one problem: only 32 percent of Americans actually recycle, despite that 78 percent of the population are more likely to purchase a product that is clearly labelled as environmentally friendly. Mentos is helping to tackle that problem head-on with the only logical solution: raccoons. Dubbed the Mentos Raccoon Recycling Force (RRF), these little critters just completed a successful mission on the streets of Simi Valley, California, by digging through trash cans and placing the paperboard gum bottles in the recycling.

More than 40 hours of expert training and a lot of motivational pep talks were given by one of the top animal trainers Mentos could find. The company started by training four raccoons to learn the difference between a recycling bin and a trash bin, and they took it from there with the use of tons of tasty fruits and veggies.

After conducting several real-world tests with the raccoon task force, the results are in: The Mentos Raccoon Recycling Force can recycle 75 percent of the time, compared to just 32 percent of Americans.

"The results were not surprising," says Crystal Chen, raccoon trainer at Working Wildlife. "Raccoons are actually incredibly smart and highly trainable, plus they're already in our trash. In a weird way, it makes perfect sense. I'm just hoping humans can take note so these Mentos paperboard gum bottles don't go into the waste stream!"

With beta testing still underway, the Raccoon Recycling Force is seeking suggestions on where to take their recycling talents next and has opened up the official Mentos RRF hotline. Mentos has issued a warning to not try to train raccoons yourself and to leave that to professional animal trainers with years of experience and pockets full of treats.

Fans can also take and share the official RRF pledge to properly recycle their Mentos paperboard gum bottles on TikTok and Instagram.

"At Mentos, we know we must do our part to help lessen our environmental impact and are constantly looking for new ways to improve our product packaging and achieve our plastics reduction, recycling, and re-use goals," says Craig Cuchra, vice president of marketing at Perfetti Van Melle, the maker of Mentos. "Working with the Raccoon Recycling Force is a fun way to highlight how we can all do a little bit better, while learning from such an adorable and talented pack of creatures."

Mentos launched its Mentos Pure Fresh Gum in the U.S. with a 90 percent paperboard bottle that is widely recyclable. The paperboard gum bottles come in two flavours, Fresh Mint and Spearmint.

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