The GrassRoots Recycling Network and Container Recycling Institute are disappointed by the failure of the Coca-Cola Company and PepsiCo to take responsibility for the unconscionable wasting of over 114 billion beverage containers in the U.S. every year. We are disappointed that these giant corporations continue to unfairly push the problem onto overburdened taxpayers and to spend obscene amounts of money trying to block the common sense solution that they themselves invented, deposit-return systems.[new window]
Coke, to its credit, participated in and helped fund, for almost a year, a multi-stakeholder dialogue to seek sustainable solutions. In signing onto this dialogue organized by Businesses and Environmentalists Allied for Recycling (BEAR), Coke pledged to put forth solutions to address the unconscionable wasting of over 114 billion beverage containers in the U.S. every year.
Unfortunately, Coke walked away from their commitment to find a solution, just like they broke their 1990 pledge to use 25 percent recycled content in their plastic bottles. They failed to put anything meaningful on the table to address plummeting recycling rates. Like Pepsi, Coke continues to refuse to take financial or physical responsibility for their container litter and waste.[new window]
Pepsi failed to even engage in the dialog to seek solutions, and only belatedly followed Coke's lead in committing to use some recycled content. Responding to public pressure, Pepsi made a commitment in February 2002 to start using recycled content, but, unlike Coke, has yet to release any details of how it will achieve this or when it will start.
While Coke was talking and Pepsi doing nothing, another 100 billion beverage containers (all types and brands) were wasted or littered in the U.S. And legions of Coke, Pepsi and industry lobbyists worked overtime in Columbia MO, Hawaii and other places to try to kill deposit legislation, the very system that currently accounts for the majority of beverage container recovery in the U.S. despite its restriction to only 10 states (soon to be 11 when Hawaii's governor signs the first new bottle bill in 16 years).
The report [new window] from the BEAR multi-stakeholder dialogue was written primarily by consultants who typically work for industry. Yet when the report was released in January 2002, Coke abandoned the multi-stakeholder process because certain elements within Coke did not like what the report showed: the effectiveness of deposits; ways to make traditional systems more cost efficient; and the inability of curbside to address increasing container waste.
GRRN recognizes that as a result of public pressure Coke has made progress in another area: incorporating recycled plastic into their bottles. Coke claims to be using 7.5 percent recycled plastic ("ten percent recycled plastic in three-quarters of the North American bottles"). While this shows a degree of progress towards their 25 percent goal promised in 1990, plastic bottle waste is growing so rapidly that 7.5 percent is almost meaningless in net environmental impact. "Custom" (non-carbonated) plastic bottle waste grew 400 percent between 1992 and 1998, and much more since then. Overall container waste has more than doubled.
One positive result
of the multi-stakeholder dialogue process is that environmentalists and
government participants developed a new, producer responsibility approach
to deposits. In this approach, government's role is to require industry
to achieve a performance standard (80% recovery) that is in the public
interest, but does not try to design or micromanage the system (unless
contracted to do so in a business relationship with industry). Industry
is then given the freedom to develop the most effective recovery system
that achieves the performance standard. Senator Jeffords (I-VT) was enthusiastic
enough about this new approach to adopt it as his National
Beverage Producer Responsibility Act of 2002 [new
introduce it on Earth Day 2002 as S. 2220.