December 4, 2000
Contacts: Bill Sheehan
GrassRoots Recycling Network
Julie Sutor,
303-449-3238; 720-317-5563 cell

Students, Recyclers 'Celebrate' Tenth Anniversary Of Coca-Cola's Broken Promise To Recycle, GrassRoots Recycling Network Release Report "Coca-Cola, Recycling Outlaw: 10 Years of Broken Promises and Plastic Pollution"

ATLANTA, GA -- Today two environmental groups released a report documenting the number of plastic soda bottles waste generated by the Coca-Cola Company in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The groups are, a national college-based organization that has gotten over 100,000 students to pledge not to work for a dozen corporations until they make specific environmental changes, and the GrassRoots Recycling Network, a national network of waste reduction activists and professionals advocating corporate accountability for waste.

The occasion for the report is the 10th anniversary - December 4th - of Coke's broken promise make plastic bottles using 25 percent recycled plastic. The report is viewable at

Coke's 1990 promise came at a time when the soft drink industry was changing from glass containers, which have at least 25 percent recycled content, to plastic, which had a negative environmental image at the time. State and federal legislatures set recycling goals and required minimum recycled content in products like newspaper.

"The implicit message of both companies was 'We don't need regulation, we'll do the right thing voluntarily,' said Julie Sutor, organizer.

According to the report, over 45 billion plastic Coke bottles have been landfilled, incinerated or littered in the U.S. alone since Coke's promise in 1990. "As quickly as we toss them, the plastic bottle industry extracts more nonrenewable resources to make new bottles to throw away tomorrow. Some soda bottles make it into carpeting, benches, or jacket-fill -- anything but new bottles," Sutor said.

The report found that:
  • Texas, Florida, Illinois, Ohio, California, Pennsylvania and Coca-Cola's home state of Georgia led the nation in soft drink bottle waste in 1999.
  • Two out of every three plastic Coke bottles go to waste in the United States every day. Recycling rates for plastic soda bottles have plummeted from a peak of 50 percent in 1994 to only 35.7 percent in 1999.
  • 90 percent of the 7.2 billion Coke plastic soda bottles wasted in 1999 came from states without container deposits. The ten states with deposits on soft drink containers represent 29 percent of the U.S. population, but recovered the majority of recycled plastic Coke bottles.
"As the market giant with 44.1 percent of the U.S. soft drink market in 1999, Coca-Cola is responsible for the largest portion of soft drink container waste," said Bill Sheehan, coordinator of the GrassRoots Recycling Network. "Coke has been the leading corporate opponent of the very systems - container deposits - responsible for collecting most beverage containers. Coke's renegade behavior is hurting recycling."

After some initial experimentation, in 1994 Coke quietly stopped using any recycled plastic in their soda bottles. Under pressure from GRRN and, Coca-Cola stated shortly before Earth Day last April that it would use 2.5 percent recycled plastic in 2000 ("25 percent in 10 percent of bottles").

"While Coke's recent step is an improvement over zero, it is a far cry from the 25 percent Coke uses in Australia, the home of Coke's CEO Douglas Daft, and in other countries including Sweden, Switzerland and New Zealand," Sutor said.

"Unless Coke makes a commitment to do its share by taking back its plastic, we will be forced to take action in the marketplace. If necessary, college students across the country will join together to launch a boycott of Coca-Cola career positions through Should the company's failure to act continue, the career boycott will be followed by shareholder action and a consumer boycott as well," Sutor said.

For more information on Coke's broken promise visit:
For information about the campaign, visit


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