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Study rates beverage industry recycling

Major U.S. beverage companies received poor marks in a study of the recycling performance of their containers.


Major U.S. beverage companies received poor marks in a study of the recycling performance of their containers.

“Waste and Opportunity: U.S. Beverage Container Recycling Scorecard and Report” is a report card on the beverage industry’s recycling efforts released by corporate social responsibility group “As You Sow” and the Container Recycling Institute. The report gave PepsiCo and Coca-Cola Co. the highest grades; both earned a C. All other companies scored D- or F, with Cadbury Schweppes, Cott, and National Beverage performing the worst.

“Both Coca-Cola and PepsiCo have shown some leadership by using 10 per cent recycled content in plastic bottles and promising to work with competitors toward setting beverage container recovery goals,” says As You Sow research director Nishita Bakshi, author of the report. “However, most other companies have done little to nothing to significantly improve recycling rates.”

American consumers purchase over 500 million beverage bottles and cans, on average, every day. Only one third are recycled while two thirds are landfilled, incinerated or littered. This results in major pollution and energy impacts, and depletion of aluminum ore and petroleum resources. Producing containers using virgin resources increases greenhouse gas emissions. If the current container recycling rate of 34 per cent were increased to 80 per cent, avoided greenhouse gas emissions would be equivalent to taking 2.4 million cars off the road for one year, the report says.

The report evaluated 12 leading beverage companies, including the top five carbonated soft-drink manufacturers (Coca-Cola Co, Pepsi Cola North America, Cadbury Schweppes, Cott Corp. and National Beverage), the top three bottled water manufacturers (PepsiCo, Coca-Cola and Nestl Waters North America) and the top three beer companies (Anheuser-Busch, Miller Brewing and Coors Brewing), as well as New Belgium Breweries, Polar Beverages, and Starbucks.

“There has been insufficient action by the beverage industry to significantly increase beverage container recovery,” according to Conrad MacKerron, director of the group’s Corporate Social Responsibility Program. “Bottled water sales have grown nearly 700 per cent in the last eight years, yet stand-alone water companies have shown no leadership in using recycled content or improving recycling rates.”

“Beverage sales jumped five-fold in the last 30 years, while container recycling rates have dropped from 53 per cent in 1992 to 34 per cent in 2004,” says Patricia Franklin, executive director of Container Recycling Institute (CRI). “Each year we are producing more beverages but recycling a smaller portion of those containers.”

The report was undertaken to provide current data on recycling efforts for consumers, investors and other corporate stakeholders.

“As institutional investors, we believe it is important for this information to be compiled so that we are able to measure company performance over time and relative to industry peers,” said Kenneth Scott, portfolio manager at Walden Asset Management, a socially responsive investment firm. As You Sow and Walden have filed shareholder proposals with Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo to encourage them to improve their performance on recycled content and container recovery.

The recycling report makes five recommendations for beverage companies to reduce environmental impact: use higher levels of recycled content in their bottles; set a national beverage container recovery goal (and support public policies and voluntary measures that increase recycling); develop design innovations leading to less packaging material; and, publicly report on their progress to stakeholders.

The report can be found online at www.asyousow.org/publications/scorecard.pdf and www.container-recycling.org/publications/scorecard.htm

For more information, contact:
Nishita Bakshi, 415-391-3212 x42 or nbakshi@asyousow.org

Conrad MacKerron, 415-391-3212 x31 or mack@asyousow.org

Patricia Franklin, 202-263-0999 or pfranklin@container-recycling.org

Also visit www.container-recycling.org and www.bottlebill.org


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