Solid Waste & Recycling


Only a third of 200 billion U.S. containers recycled

More than 200 billion beverage containers are sold in the U.S. each year, but less than one-third are recycled, acc...

More than 200 billion beverage containers are sold in the U.S. each year, but less than one-third are recycled, according to a new report to be released on Wednesday, December 17. Corporate responsibility watchdog As You Sow evaluated 23 major U.S. beverage companies and how well they recycle or contribute to this huge waste of natural resources.

Waste and Opportunity: U.S. Beverage Container Recycling Scorecard and Report, is based on original research that identifies industry leaders and laggards among all major beverage companies including Coca-Cola Co., PespiCo, Nestle Waters North America, Anheuser Busch, MillerCoors, Cott and Dr. Pepper Snapple Group.

“Most people don’t realize that beverage container recycling has a direct impact on climate change and energy security,” said Amy Galland, As You Sow’s Research Director and author of this report. “If all of the beverage containers that were wasted last year had been recycled, 15.6 million metric tons of greenhouse gases would have been avoided – the equivalent to emissions from 36.2 million barrels of oil.”

Making containers from recycled content uses significantly less energy and fossil fuels than making containers from new materials: recycling aluminum uses 95 per cent less energy, plastic 30 per cent less energy and glass 35 per cent less energy.

Most beverage companies use a minimal amount of recycled materials in their containers. The recent drop in the market for post-consumer materials creates an opportunity for beverage companies to increase their use of recycled content.

As You Sow evaluated the beverage companies using four criteria:

Source Reduction: Reducing the use of virgin packaging materials has a dramatic effect on energy use and the carbon footprint of beverage companies.

Use of Recycled Content: The energy savings from using recycled materials in beverage containers is significant.

Beverage Container Recycling: The national recycling rate in the U.S. has dropped since 1992 from 55 per cent to 33 per cent, but the average rate of recycling rates for 11 states with mandatory container deposit laws (i.e., bottle bills) – is 70 per cent.

Transparency: A key indicator of corporate responsibility is setting goals and making commitments on container recycling, source reduction and recycled content and placing it in central, easily accessible places on company websites.

This is the second beverage container recycling report to be released by As You Sow. Following the first report in 2006, in which Nestl Waters received a failing grade, the company moved to strengthen its container packaging and recovery commitments. It broke with years of industry opposition to bottle bills and endorsed a new model of state container deposit legislation, leading what may be a warming political climate for new state bottle bill laws. It also set a recovery goal of 60 per cent of all plastic bottles sold by the beverage industry by 2018.

As You Sow is one of the nation’s leading practitioners of corporate responsibility through shareholder activism. It has successfully pressed Apple Inc. and Dell to set computer recycling goals; Best Buy to recycle electronics at its stores; and Coca-Cola and Pepsi to commit to using 10 per cent recycled PET plastic in all plastic bottles sold in US markets. It has also convinced Target and Bed, Bath and Beyond to phase out many products and packaging containing polyvinyl chloride.

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