Banner: Beverage Take-Back Campaign

Last modified: March 23, 2019

Campaign Update: As a result of consumer pressure, Coca-Cola is making progress towards their original goal of using 25% recycled plastic in bottles (they are close to 10% in North America). In February 2002, Pepsi committed to using 10% recycled plastic by 2002. Coca-Cola participated in an objective, multi-stakeholder project to assess options to increase container recovery, but they abandoned the project after a report by the beverage industry's own consultants showed the effectiveness of deposits and ways of making them more cost effective.

GRRN & CRI Statement On Coke & Pepsi's Dismal Records
Value of Citizen Advocacy - Plastics News April 23, 2002

GRRN's flagship consumer campaign targets the beverage industry's role in the appalling waste of single-serve beverage containers - over 114 billion in the U.S each year and growing rapidly - as well as their efforts to oppose effective solutions. GRRN made significant progress in 2002 by (1) getting both Coke and Pepsi to commit to, and start using in the case of Coke, 10% recycled content in their plastic bottles; (2) seeing the release of a report that engaged the industry leader, Coca-Cola, and documented the extent of container wasting and the effectiveness of deposits; and (3) having our 'beverage industry producer responsibility' approach (including incentives for using refillables) adopted by Sen. Jeffords (I-VT) in a bill introduced on Earth Day 2002.

GRRN's Beverage Container EPR Campaign aims to get the industry to acknowledge responsibility for their container litter and waste by engaging them in designing a recovery system that achieves 80% recovery (the level currently achieved in most of the ten U.S. deposit states) and by using 25% recycled plastic in bottles (an amount Coke uses in several countries). The battle lines are clear, as the industry continues to pump tens of millions of dollars annually into convincing legislators and the public that cleaning up their waste should be done at taxpayer expense -- through curbside collection programs and sanitation departments servicing drop bins.

When GRRN launched the Coke Campaign in 1997, local events spread across the country spurred by our Greenyes listserve. We subsequently launched a campaign to get consumers to mail empty plastic bottles to Coke's CEO; worked to get a dozen supporting local government resolutions adopted; worked with student organizers to take GRRN's 25-foot inflatable Coke and Pepsi bottles to dozens of college campuses; and placed, with the help of the Florence Fund, ads in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal. The latter ads led to shareholder resolutions and to the formation of a unique partnership called Businesses and Environmentalists Allied for Recycling (BEAR) that brought multiple stakeholders, including Coca-Cola, together to seek solutions to the dismal state of beverage container recycling.

GRRN has not lost sight of Coke and Pepsi's 1990 goals of 'closing the loop' by using 25 percent recycled plastic. In response to public pressure, Coke announced a goal of 10 percent by 2005, and then let it be known in late 2001 that they had almost reached that level in a year's time. Clearly 25 percent recycled-content plastic bottles can be achieved by 2005, if bottles can be collected.

GRRN will continue pressing for increased recycled-content levels as well as for deposit systems to increase collection. The new 'producer responsibility approach' adopted by Sen. Jeffords says that government's role is to set and require achievement of a performance standard - 80% recovery - and then give industry maximum flexibility to design and operate a system to reach the standard in a specified time. GRRN will promote this approach at both state and national levels.


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