April 4, 2000
Contacts:  Bill Sheehan
(706) 613-7121
Lance King (703) 241-4927

Coca-Cola Misleads Public About Using Recycled Plastic In Making Soda Bottles, Group Says

Coke challenged to disclose facts or withdraw its 'consumer advisory'

ATLANTA -- The Coca-Cola Company is misleading the public about its use of recycled plastic in making soda bottles, the GrassRoots Recycling Network said today.

Leaders of the national environmental organization called upon Coca-Cola Chairman Douglas Daft to withdraw a 'consumer advisory' on the company's Internet web page or produce verifiable documentation to support the claims.

"Coke's claims to be using recycled plastic are false in one respect and misleading in another," Bill Sheehan, Ph.D., network coordinator for the GrassRoots Recycling Network said today, referring to statements in a 'consumer advisory' dated March 1st posted on Coke's web page. "Consumers deserve to know the truth."

"Coca-Cola now claims it has been using recycled plastic in bottles for two years," Sheehan said. "But Coca-Cola told local government officials and the public a year ago that it was not using recycled plastic and had stopped using it in making soda bottles in 1994."

"What's the truth? Coca-Cola's statements cannot both be true," Dr. Sheehan said.

"Coke is also misleading the public about the amount of recycled plastic they're using. Based upon published industry sources, the Coca-Cola Company used a trivial amount of recycled plastic - less than one percent - up until 8 months ago," Sheehan said. "That's a far cry from the 25 percent Coke promised in 1990."

"Coke refuses to state publicly their intentions on using significant amounts of recycled plastic," Sheehan said. "Until they do, pressure will continue to mount from the environmental community, local governments and concerned investment firms."

The Los Angeles City Council is scheduled today to vote on a resolution to "urge the Coca-Cola Company to increase its use of recycled PET as well as support deposit legislation and other policies which significantly increase the collection of plastic bottles," and on a motion to restrict City vending contracts "to those beverages in containers with significant quantities of recycled content." Council President Pro Tem Ruth Galanter announced last week in a news conference with GRRN that she would be introducing the resolution.

Mayors, city councils, county supervisors and other public officials in three states - California, Florida and Minnesota - have passed resolutions and sent letters calling upon Coca-Cola to keep its 1990 pledge to make soda bottles with recycled plastic.

GRRN noted that Coke's public statements about using recycled plastic began to change last summer when it received nearly 40,000 letters, calls and e-mails calling on the company to make recycled plastic bottles. Three days after GRRN began running paid advertisements in the New York Times on August 3, 1999, Coke officials called GRRN to request a meeting.

The GrassRoots Recycling Network launched its campaign in April 1997 calling upon Coca-Cola to take responsibility for the billions of plastic Coke bottles wasted every year, by making new bottles with recycled plastic. Since then, 103 environmental, recycling, business, consumer, student and community leaders and organizations have endorsed the campaign.

"Local governments and taxpayers get stuck with the bill for Coke's plastic bottle waste, paying millions of dollars each year to clean up litter and to landfill or recycle used bottles. Our goal is getting Coca-Cola take responsibility for its waste," GRRN project consultant Lance King said.

"Coca-Cola's attempts to take credit for overall beverage container recycling rates is outrageous, when it opposes state bottle bill deposit laws. The ten states that require refundable deposits recycled the lion's share of beverage containers," King said.

Coca-Cola is the U.S. soft drink market leader, so its actions are carefully watched by the entire industry.

"Recycling rates for plastic soda bottles have declined for each of the past 5 years according to industry data. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data shows a dramatic decline in PET plastic soda bottle recycling, from a high of 53.3 percent in 1994 to just 35.5 percent in 1997," King said.

"We would like to resolve this matter with Coca-Cola's new chairman, Douglas Daft, as quickly as possible," Sheehan said.


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