April 19, 2000
Contacts:  Lance King
(703) 241-4927

Coca-Cola Profits From Plastic Bottles, Pollutes Environment

Protest at Shareholder Meeting to Earth Day Rally in Capitol, groups vow to expand protest of Coke bottle waste

WILMINGTON, DE - Coca-Cola's new CEO, Douglas Daft, and company investors at the annual shareholder meeting are being greeted with demands today from more than 80 organizations, public officials and businesses to honor its commitments to protect the environment on Earth Day by eliminating plastic bottle waste.

"We have come to reach out to Coke shareholders today, calling on Coca-Cola to keep its 1990 promise to protect the environment. The first step is reducing reliance on virgin plastic in making new soda bottles, as Coke promised. The second step is taking a leadership role to double plastic soda bottle recycling - so that the majority of plastic bottles get recycled rather than wasted as they are now," Rick Best, president of the GrassRoots Recycling Network, said in a peaceful protest at Coca-Cola's Shareholder meeting.

Speaking next to a 20-foot high, inflated plastic Coke bottle Best said "these are commitments made by Doug Daft's predecessor nearly 10 years ago. But Coke broke its promise by abandoning use of recycled plastic in the United States in 1994 and increasing reliance on plastic bottles at the same time."

"Tens of billions of plastic Coke bottles made from virgin plastic from 1994 to 1999 have been wasted, meaning that more petroleum resources are being used to produce new plastic and create toxic pollution in the process," Best said.

The GrassRoots Recycling Network, a national nonprofit organization based in Athens, Georgia, launched its Coke Campaign in April 1997. It is supported by more than 103 environmental, recycling, student and consumer organizations and businesses across the nation.

"Our campaign is about corporate responsibility. It's time for Coke to keep its promise to protect the environment for present and future generations," Earth Day 2000 organizer Jill Johnson said. She vowed to gather tens of thousands of pledges as part of the campaign effort from college and university students between now and this weekend, which marks the 30th Anniversary of Earth Day.

Students on more than 150 college campuses from Harvard to the University of Kentucky and the University of California, Berkeley have joined the campaign. Thousands of students already have pledged not to interview for jobs with Coke until the company honors its recycling pledge.

The GrassRoots Recycling Network said that the 'ecopledge' student organizers have taken the 20-foot plastic Coke bottle coast-to-coast in the past three months and will take it to the nation's capital for Earth Day.

"I'm from Coke's home town, Atlanta, Georgia. Too many of these plastic Coke bottles litter our streets, highways, parks, farms and beaches. We're here today demanding that Coca-Cola take responsibility for its waste," Bob Woodall, chairman of Waste Not Georgia said.

"Many companies in Georgia already recycle plastic soda bottles, using them to make carpeting and sustaining thousands of good paying jobs. But these companies have to buy used bottles from as far away as Canada and Mexico, because not enough bottles are being recycled in the United States," said Pat Franklin, executive director of the Container Recycling Institute, based in Arlington, Virginia.

"Coke is in denial, refusing to face the facts. Some form of financial incentive is needed to boost plastic soda bottle recycling rates, which have fallen 5 years in a row. One public policy is a proven success, placing refundable deposits on beverages. Ten states with bottle bills recycle 2 to 3 times more bottles and cans than non-deposit states," Franklin said.

"Coke is misleading the public about its recycling commitment, claiming credit for the results of bottle bills when the company spends millions of dollars a year to defeat new proposals or try to repeal existing laws," Best said.

"We had hoped to come to Wilmington and praise Mr. Daft for beginning to increase the use of recycled plastic in Coke bottles to 10% in the year 2000. But unfortunately, press reports last week by the Associated Press and others simply did not convey the truth. Coke may try to get away with using as little as 3% percent recycled plastic overall this year, based upon our analysis of a letter from Coke's Director of Corporate Environmental Affairs, Jeff Foote," said Best.

"Coke's conflicting statements to the media, local government, and the public over the past year contain astounding inconsistencies, bringing into doubt the credibility of its commitments. Mr. Daft is probably the only person who can write a new chapter in Coke's environmental legacy. Will it be a story of profits over pollution or corporate responsibility?" Best asked. For more on the Coke Campaign, visit GRRN on the Internet at:


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