On October 29, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Keurig Dr Pepper announced a joint US initiative organized by the American Beverage Association to reduce plastic waste from bottles. The program, called “Every Bottle Back,” will incorporate expertise from the World Wildlife Fund, the Recycling Partnership and Closed Loop Partners, according to the ABA. A key pillar of the initiative will be to reduce the use of new plastic for beverage packaging. Progress toward that goal will be measured with a tracking tool being developed by the World Wildlife Fund. BD wanted to know more about the tool, so we spoke to WWF Materials Lead Alix Grabowski.
The Basics. A WWF program called “Resource: Plastic” has been developing a data collection and analysis tool to track the amount of plastic being distributed by industry and where those packages end up, such as landfills, recycling centers, incinerators and litter heaps. Data will be collected from companies, government and other sources. The ultimate goal is to create a standard measurement across companies, industries and even countries to track the problem and model the most effective solutions to reduce plastic waste. In May, six companies signed on as principal members of Resource: Plastic for a pilot project to create the tool. Baseline results incorporating data from members Keurig Dr Pepper, McDonald’s, Procter & Gamble, Starbucks, Tetra Pak and Coca-Cola will roll out in May of next year, Grabowski said. The program also will begin making recommendations for improvement when it comes to plastic waste. The ABA’s Every Bottle Back initiative by Coke, PepsiCo and KDP in the US now will essentially plug into WWF’s tool to track its progress, Grabowski said. PepsiCo is not a member of the Resource: Plastic pilot project as a principal member, however.
Data Dive. Very much a work in progress, the WWF’s tracking tool combines plastic packaging data from corporations by package size, polymer type, sales channel, recycled plastic content, virgin plastic content and more, Grabowski said. In addition, data science engineers are working to “scrape” any available sources related to plastic manufacturing, disposal and re-use, including from the US EPA, she said. The tool and resulting model will improve as more, and better data is incorporated and the methodology is refined. Results will be reported by country and company. Industry, government and non-governmental organizations will use the model to target the most effective interventions and determine where to invest to make the tool better. Exactly how the May pilot report will be structured is a work in progress, Grabowski said.
More on ABA Initiative. The Every Bottle Back initiative will include a $100 million fund to invest in the sorting, processing and collection of discarded plastic bottles in key US regions to boost the amount of recovered plastic available for recycled bottles. The industry-backed fund, to be administered by the Recycling Partnership and Closed Loop Partners, will attract an additional $300 million in matching grants and investment for the program. In addition, the ABA will mount a public awareness campaign emphasizing that beverage bottles and caps are 100% recyclable and encouraging their return. Beginning late next year, the industry will add voluntary messaging on bottle labels reminding consumers that the packages are 100% recyclable and can be remade into new bottles. Details of the label messaging are in discussion. The message is likely to be consistent across brands and manufacturers.
Perspective. While the industry has collaborated in recent years around sugar and calorie reduction, this is the first significant joint initiative by the three US beverage makers to address plastic waste and recycling. Until now, the producers have each managed the issue largely on their own. Without a coordinated effort and clear progress, the beverage industry faces the threat of increased consumer and government backlash against one of its most important packages.
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