[The following news release was issued at a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington DC on December 3rd. It was the eve of the eighth anniversary of Coke and Pepsi's broken promises to use recycled plastic in their soda bottles.]

December 3, 1998
Contacts: Bill Sheehan
(706) 613-7121
Lance King (703) 241-4927


"Coke - Take It Back!" Say Groups Demanding Company Make New Bottles With Recycled Plastic As Promised

- Coca-Cola is shifting away from recycled aluminum and glass to non-recycled plastic, a move which is depressing recycling rates for plastic soda bottles according to the GrassRoots Recycling Network.

"Coke's use of non-recycled plastic damages the environment by wasting billions of bottles that could be recycled each year and by generating toxic waste in production of new plastics," Rick Best, chair of the GrassRoots Recycling Network said today in a 12:30 news conference at the National Press Club.

"Some things don't go better with Coke, things like plastics recycling. Recycling rates for plastic soda bottles have dropped 3 years in a row from a peak of 50 percent in 1995 to 36 percent in 1997," Best said.

The GrassRoots Recycling Network is leading a national protest campaign called "Coke - Take It Back!" calling upon Coca-Cola Chairman M. Douglas Ivester to live up to the 1990 promise to make new bottles with recycled plastic.

"Consumers are sending Coke a message by mailing empty bottles back to Coca- Cola," GRRN Network Coordinator Bill Sheehan said. "All you have to do is address it to Chairman and CEO M. Douglas Ivester at One Coca-Cola Plaza, Atlanta, GA 30313. Just put a mailing label on the bottle and add a 55 cent stamp on a 20 ounce or 2 liter bottle. Rinse out the bottle and put the cap back on before mailing."

The Coke - Take It Back! campaign is growing rapidly, with support from 81 organizations and leaders in 26 states. Environmental, consumer, recycling and student groups launched the campaign in mid-September and have experienced a 4 fold increase in endorsements since then.

"Our campaign is about manufacturer responsibility. Recycling works only if manufacturers like Coke use the materials consumers recycle," Larry Bohlen, director of health and environment for Friends of the Earth in Washington, DC, said today.

"This is a decentralized, grassroots campaign" GRRN Campaign Consultant Lance King said. "More than a dozen protest events were held the week of November 10 to November 17 in connection with the second annual America Recycles Day."

"One local government sparked interest in the mail back campaign. In San Luis Obispo County, California, elected officials on the solid waste authority launched a radio and newspaper ad campaign almost a year ago calling on consumers to send back their empty plastic Coke bottles," Rick Best, policy director for Californians Against Waste and chair of the GRRN Steering Committee said today in Sacramento, California.

Coca-Cola sells an estimated 20 million sodas every day in the United States in plastic bottles. In a year's time more than 8 billion plastic Coke bottles made from more than 600 million pounds of virgin plastic are discarded.

"As quickly as those bottles are tossed away, the plastics industry extracts more non-renewable resources and spews more hazardous emissions to churn out millions of new bottles," Dr. Bill Sheehan, GRRN Network Coordinator said from the organization's national headquarters in Athens, Georgia.

"While certain industries incorporate used plastic soda bottles into a host of products, 64 percent of all used soda bottles became waste or litter in 1997 - largely because Coke refuses to 'close the loop' by taking them back and using them again," GRRN's chair Rick Best said.

"Soft drinks packaged in plastic, particularly in the recently introduced 20 ounce bottles, are adding to the waste stream 10 times faster than the growth in recycling of soda bottles. We're targeting Coke as the industry leader with 44 percent of the market," King said.

"Cost-effective technologies approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are available to Coke. It would cost about one tenth of one penny to use 25 percent recycled plastic in a 20 ounce bottle, according to one industry source," King said.

"The next time you say the words 'Coca-Cola', just remember that in the one second it takes to say those words 200 plastic Coke bottles were dumped in a landfill somewhere in the United states - 200 every second, 700,000 every hour, more than 20 million a day, more than 6 billion last year alone - all at taxpayers expense," Container Recycling Institute Executive Director Pat Franklin said.

Coca-Cola uses recycled plastic in Coke bottles sold in a number of other countries, where government mandates require it. If Coke refuses to take the "buy recycled" pledged voluntarily, then calls for government to adopt legislation will grow according to GRRN.

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