September 15, 1998
(Bill Sheehan)
Groups Demand That Coke Live Up To Promise To Use Recycled Plastic

(Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA) -- Coca-Cola wastes billions of plastic soda bottles every year because the company broke its promise to make new bottles with recycled plastic, say representatives of 23 groups targeting Coke in a national consumer campaign launched today.

Campaign organizers want consumers to mail back empty plastic soda bottles to Coca-Cola Company Chairman Douglas Ivester with the message "Coke Live Up to Your Promise!  Take It Back and Use It Again!"

"Coca-Cola sells more than 20 million sodas in the United States every day in plastics bottles without using even one ounce of recycled plastic.  We are asking consumers to mail empty plastic Coke bottles back to the company to protest the waste of resources," GrassRoots Recycling Network Chair Rick Best said in announcing the "Coke -- Take It Back!" Campaign at a news conference in Albuquerque's Civic Plaza at noon on September 15.

The GrassRoots Recycling Network (GRRN) is a national nonprofit organization advocating public and private policies to achieve the goal of zero waste, while creating sustainable jobs that conserve human and natural resources.  Headquartered in Athens, Georgia, the organization was established in 1996.

"Our campaign is about manufacturer responsibility.  Recycling works only if manufacturers like Coke use the materials consumers recycle," Jeanne Bassett, executive director of New Mexico Public Interest Group said.  New Mexico PIRG, which endorsed the campaign, is an environmental and consumer watchdog group with 4,000 members.

Twenty-three environmental, recycling, consumer and student organizations and recycling leaders in 12 states and the District of Columbia have endorsed the Coke - Take It Back! Campaign so far.  The GrassRoots Recycling Network is undertaking a national organizing campaign to gain support from groups across the nation.

Endorsing organizations are in the following states and the District of Columbia:  California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Virginia and Washington, D.C.  A complete list of endorsements is attached.

Recycling rates for PET plastic soda bottles dropped dramatically from a peak of 50 percent in 1994 to 36 percent in 1997, according to data from industry sources.  Production of single serve plastic soft drink bottles increased by more than 30 percent in 1997, which is a major factor in the declining recycling rate.

"Coca-Cola bears a major part of the responsibility for the declining recycling rate of plastic soda bottles as the soft drink industry leader.  Coke used more than 600 million pounds of virgin plastic in 1997 to make soft drink bottles, which was more than the total amount of used soda bottles collected for recycling.  Coke is undermining markets for recycled materials and breaking faith with the public regarding its commitment to recycling," Bill Sheehan, Network Coordinator for the GrassRoots Recycling Network, said.

Coca-Cola promised in 1990 to make new plastic soft drink bottles sold in the United States with 25 percent recycled material.  The company broke its promise in early 1994 when abandoned the recycling process and subsequently stopped using any recycled plastic in bottles sold in this country.

Rick Best, chair of the GRRN Steering Committee, said:  "The technology for making plastic bottles with recycled content is well established.  The Food and Drug Administration approved technology for making 100 percent recycled PET bottles in 1994.  Coke uses a different technique with a layer of recycled plastic in New Zealand, Australia, Switzerland and Sweden.  In France, Coke uses a refillable PET plastic bottle."  In addition to serving as chair of GRRN, Best is the policy director for Californians Against Waste in Sacramento, California.

"One reason Coke uses recycled PET in other countries is because of government mandates.  In the United States, Coke and other companies have backed away from commitments to use recycled materials.  The Take It Back Campaign is a way to bring consumer pressure on Coke to do the right thing voluntarily, rather than waiting for government mandates," Best said.

According to Plastics Recycling Update, converting to 25 percent recycled PET plastic in a 20 ounce plastic bottle would only cost 1/10 of one penny more per container.


Updated List of Endorsements

[COMMENTARY:  The preceding news release announced the kick-off of the Coke Take-It-Back Campaign on September 15th in Albuquerque NM at the National Recycling Coalition Congress.  Participants listened to spirited songs of Pat Scanlon accompanied by Ford Schumann -- including a new Coke song written for the occasion to the tune of "This Land is Your Land".

The crowd was addressed by a representative of the Albuquerque Mayor's office, by New Mexico Public Interest Research Group director Jeanne Bassett, and by GrassRoots Recycling Network chair Rick Best.

Ten large sacks of empty plastic soda bottles were donated by the City of Albuquerque, which is having trouble marketing them. Numerous empty bottles were mailed individually by participants to Coke CEO Douglas Ivester, with labels that said: "Coke -- Keep your Promise! Take This Back and Use It Again!" Resa Dimino and helpers packed and mailed to Mr. Ivester ten large boxes of empties.]

Coke - Take It Back! Campaign
A Project of the GrassRoots Recycling Network

NOTE:   A background fact sheet, action alert, a Coca-Cola mailing label you can print out, this release, and more are available on the new GRRN web site at: For faxed information, contact GRRN by phone at (706) 613-7121 or via e-mail:  (Bill Sheehan)

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