For release 10:00 a.m. EST, January 27, 2000
Contacts: Lance King
(703) 241-4927
Bill Sheehan (706) 613-7121

Super Bowl News -- Coca-Cola Creates Enough Plastic Soda Bottle Waste To Fill 15 Georgia Domes, Say Environmentalists

Groups Unveil 20 Foot High Replica of Plastic Coke Bottle,
Symbolizing Billions of Wasted Bottles In Past 5 Years

ATLANTA (January 27, 2000) - Standing beside a 20 foot high inflated replica of a plastic contoured Coke bottle, environmental and recycling groups today announced plans for a Super Bowl demonstration and nationwide tour targeting The Coca-Cola Company's plastic soda bottle waste.

The GrassRoots Recycling Network, Earth Day 2000, and Waste Not Georgia held an 11:00 a.m. news conference today at Woodruff Park in downtown Atlanta to announce the kickoff demonstration and nationwide tour.

"We are targeting Coke because it is 'greenwashing', trying to create a positive environmental image while it is breaking with a decades-long practice of using recycled materials in packaging," said Sheehan.

"Coca-Cola is the champion beverage industry waste-maker, responsible for plummeting plastic bottle recycling rates and a rising flood of soda bottle waste. Coke is leading the beverage industry in the wrong direction, away from aluminum cans and glass bottles made with recycled materials to plastic bottles made with little or no recycled plastic," Dr. Bill Sheehan, network coordinator for the GrassRoots Recycling Network, said in an Atlanta news conference today.

"Coke’s virgin plastic soda bottle waste in the last five years would fill 15 Georgia Domes," Sheehan said. "Put another way, if you laid all the littered, landfilled and incinerated Coke bottles end to end, they would stretch from Atlanta to Los Angeles and back 868 times," said Sheehan.

Sheehan announced a Super Bowl Weekend ‘Coke Bottle Demonstration:’
  • WHEN Saturday, January 29, 2000, at 1:00 p.m.
  • WHERE Centennial Park across from the Coke-sponsored 'NFL Experience' at the Georgia World Congress Center
  • The GrassRoots Recycling Network launched its Coke Campaign in April 1997, calling on Coke to take voluntary steps to reduce plastic bottle waste.  More than 100 recycling, environmental, business, consumer and student organizations and leaders from across the country have endorsed the campaign.

    Local government officials from Florida to Minnesota and California have passed resolutions calling on Coke to make new plastic soda bottles with recycled plastic.

    "Coke produced more than 21 billion plastic bottles in the last 5 years that have been wasted, as litter on streets, in parks and on beaches, or sent to landfills and incinerators," Dr. Sheehan said.

    "These bottles could be used again to make new bottles, if Coke would take responsibility for its waste.  Coke makes bottles with 25 percent recycled plastic in other countries," Sheehan stated.

    The GrassRoots Recycling Network is seeking a ‘public commitment’ from the chairman of Coca-Cola to begin using 25 percent recycled plastic on a specific timetable.

    "We started direct discussions with Coca-Cola in October 1999, nearly two years after our campaign was launched.  Coke ignored our protests until last summer when we ran advertisements in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal about the waste problem," said Sheehan.

    Coca-Cola used recycled plastic in bottles in the United States from 1991 to 1994, then abandoned the initial technology.  According to public statements by Coke officials, the company used virgin plastic in its soda bottles for the next 4 years.

    Newer plastic recycling techniques approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are commercially available.  Coke could produce a bottle made with 25 percent recycled plastic for only about 1/10 of a cent more than virgin plastic for a 20-ounce bottle.

    Bob Woodall, speaking on behalf of Waste Not Georgia, said: "Another part of the solution is creating financial incentives to increase recycling collection. We support a system of deposits on beverage containers to boost recycling, but Coke opposes deposits."

    "Coke is misleading the public, trying to claim cre for plastic bottle recycling.  But the facts tell a different story.  Bottle bill states recycle the vast majority of plastic bottles, because deposits provide a financial incentive.  Coke opposes deposits and spends millions of dollars annually to defeat new legislation and seek repeal of existing deposit laws," Woodall said.

    The Container Recycling Institute, based in Arlington, Virginia, reports that the 10 states with so-called 'bottle bill' laws report recycling rates for all beverage containers (plastic, aluminum and glass) of 75 to 95 percent, which is two to three times higher than non-deposit states.

    "A bottle bill in Georgia would produce a steady stream of recycled bottles which could be used by both Coke and the carpet industry.  The carpet industry is one of Georgia's largest employers and the largest end-user of recycled plastic soda bottles in the nation," said Woodall.

    The GrassRoots Recycling Network favors voluntary or mandatory measures that hold product manufacturers accountable for product and packaging waste, as policies and laws in many other countries already do.

    Recent trade press reports indicate that Coca-Cola is beginning to use a small amount of recycled plastic to make their soda bottles.

    "From the summer of 1998 to the summer of 1999, Coke used only a token amount of recycled plastic," Sheehan said. "Our information indicates that it was no more than one tenth of one percent of the more than one billion pounds of virgin plastic that Coke used to make bottles that year."

    "Coca-Cola so far refuses to confirm the amount of material used or a timetable for widespread use of recycled plastic," Sheehan said. "It's time for Coke to make a clear public commitment to use recycled plastic in their bottles and support a system of financial incentives to make plastic soda bottle recycling work."

    "The sign on our 20 foot bottle communicates an essential first step to solve the plastic bottle waste problem - 'Demand Coke Use Recycled Plastic Always' - and now is the time to start," Sheehan said.

    The GrassRoots Recycling Network (GRRN) is a North American network of recycling and community-based activists dedicated to achieving a sustainable economy based on the principle of zero waste. GRRN advocates policies and practices to promote producer responsibility for product and packaging waste, to end corporate welfare for waste, and to create sustainable jobs from discards. GRRN was founded in 1995 by members of the Sierra Club Solid Waste Committee, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, and the California Resource Recovery Association.

    For more information on Coke's broken promise to recycle, visit the GrassRoots Recycling Network’s website at


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