[Plastics News, September 8, 2000]
Alliance Aims At Doubling Bottle Recycling
By Steve Toloken
WASHINGTON (Sept. 8, 2000, 3:50 p.m. EDT) -- A well- funded group of environmentalists and a major carpet manufacturer plan to form an alliance with the goal of doubling the bottle-recycling rate, an effort that sources said could be headed by a former high-ranking Coca-Cola Co. executive.
Essentially, the effort would give recycling advocates something they have not had much of -- money.
The Turner Foundation Inc., affiliated with media mogul Ted Turner, has agreed to give $150,000 a year for three years, and the third-largest carpet maker in the world, Beaulieu of America LLC, has pledged what is described as a significant amount.
The effort is tentatively named Businesses and Environmentalists Allied for Recycling. It will be based in the Santa Monica, Calif., offices of Global Green USA, the American arm of former Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachevīs environmental group Green Cross International, said Matt Petersen, executive director of Global Green.
Global Green hopes business community funding will be close to or more than what Turner has pledged, Petersen said.
Participants in the talks stress they will not focus exclusively on bottle-deposit legislation. They plan to set the ambitious goal of an 80 percent bottle-recycling rate, which some of its members feel can be met with deposits.
Petersen said the group hopes to follow the International Green Cross model and get environmentalists and businesses to work together.
The person Petersen confirmed as a possible chairman, Pierre Ferrari, seems to fit that mold.
Heīs a former senior vice president and marketing director for Coca-Colaīs U.S. subsidiary, and he was involved in talks between Home Depot and the Rainforest Action Network that ultimately got the retailer to stop selling products from endangered forests.
"He knew some people, and he knew us and was supportive of our demands of Home Depot," said Jennifer Krill, a campaigner with San Francisco-based RAN. "He carried messages and created a climate of change in Home Depot."
Coca-Cola and other soft drink companies have been formidable opponents of bottle bills.
Gauging the potential impact of the recycling group is tough. Details are not final and are not likely to be announced for at least a month, Petersen said. But the effort comes as plastics recyclers are getting increasingly anxious about supply problems.
The Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers put out a news release Aug. 31 saying that recyclers face a crisis of not being able to get enough material.
"The system is broken and we need to fix it, and we need the whole packaging industry chain to focus on a sustainable solution," said Phil Cavin, national procurement director for carpet maker Mohawk Industries in Summerville, Ga.
Arlington, Va.-based APR said both consumer education and bottle bills should be considered. One recycling industry official said recyclers consider bottle bills a last resort, but if things do not improve in a year or two, they could endorse them. Far East buyers of U.S. recycled PET are a big reason supply is short, the official said.
Cavinīs statement said two of the largest buyers of post- consumer PET are in Georgia, but that state still sends 75 percent of its PET bottles to landfills.
The recycling alliance would work on recycling all types of containers but would put special emphasis on plastic because its recycling rates have been declining for several years, according to a source in the talks who asked not to be identified.
"We are trying to solve a problem," the source said. "This is not about traditional environmentalist and business positions. We are trying quietly and privately to see what we can do."
The group is trying to enlist waste haulers, other carpet makers using PET as raw materials and other interested businesses, sources said. Other environmental groups taking part include the Container Recycling Institute in Arlington and the GrassRoots Recycling Network in Athens, Ga.
Luke Schmidt, president of the National Association for PET Container Resources in Charlotte, N.C., said, "We would submit that bottle bills can be somewhat punitive. They can be somewhat detrimental to our customer base. We would prefer to find other, more positive ways to increase PET recycling."
The American Plastics Council has been pushing an all- bottle recycling program, which was endorsed recently by the National Soft Drink Association in Washington. APC will detail its program Sept. 12 at the National Recycling Coalitionīs annual congress.
Many communities include only PET and high density polyethylene bottles in plastic collection programs. But Arlington-based APC said its studies show that when households are encouraged to recycle all plastic bottles, PET and HDPE collection gets a boost of up to 10 percent.
APC said an all-bottle program is simple, cost-effective and can catch containers not covered by deposits.
Schmidt said NAPCOR thinks the all-bottle program is a good concept and its board could endorse it at a meeting next month. He also said NAPCOR is working with NSDA to recycle more single-serve PET bottles.
Displayed with permission of Plastics News, Copyright Crain Communications Inc. Originally published in Plastics News (September 8, 2000)