Consistent recycling messages on PET plastic bottles distributed by competing US beverage companies is now expected to rollout by early next year, according to American Beverage Association President and CEO Katherine Lugar. The effort is part of the Every Bottle Back plastic waste reduction initiative announced one year ago by Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Keurig Dr Pepper under the direction of the ABA. The voluntary on-pack language will remind consumers that PET beverage containers are 100% recyclable and can be remade into new bottles. The messaging will start with “prominent” brands in 2021 and be phased in over time, Lugar said in an interview. BD reached out to the soft drink companies for additional details. Coke will begin rolling out the message on bottle caps throughout its carbonated soft drink portfolio by the end of this year. Keurig Dr Pepper will include the messaging on bottle caps “broadly in our CSD portfolio,” with a phased rollout beginning in early 2021. PepsiCo declined to comment. The beverage companies and the ABA negotiated the exact package language, which will be revealed soon, Lugar said. “We’re also looking at broader awareness campaigns to make sure that our consumers understand that our bottles were intentionally made to be remade,” she said. “We found in our research over the past year and a half that most consumers aren’t aware that we’re making 100% recyclable bottles.”
ANNOUNCEMENTS COMING. Now a year into the initiative, most of which fell during a pandemic, Every Bottle Back is close to announcing new recycling improvement projects in seven US cities. Industry funding to modernize recycling infrastructure and educate residents in the communities will total almost $6 million, according to the ABA. The seven programs will recover nearly 627 million new pounds of recycled PET over 10 years that could be used to make new bottles. Previously announced projects already underway in Texas (Dallas-Fort Worth), Oklahoma (Broken Arrow), and Wisconsin (Kenosha) will invest nearly $4 million to recover 38 million new pounds of recycled PET over 10 years, according to the ABA. All told, the programs will fund curbside recycling, consumer education programs to reduce materials cross-contamination, the reopening of a materials recovery facility, and modernization of a plastic reprocessor facility, according to the ABA. The projects will lead to increased recycling of other plastics, as well. “The impact is far greater than simply recovering bottles and cans,” Lugar said.
CONTEXT. In 2018, nearly 6.3 billion pounds of PET resin was used in bottles in the US, according to the National Association for PET Container Resources (NAPCOR). Of that, an estimated 28.9% was recycled, a slight decline from 29.2% in 2017. The NAPCOR data is the latest available from the organization.
PERSPECTIVE. The global COVID-19 pandemic has raised questions about whether activism around plastic waste has suffered a setback as consumers prioritize health concerns over environmental concerns. Such an outcome is unlikely, and privately many beverage executives agree. US consumers are likely to increasingly seek alternative packaging, as has happened in Europe despite much higher plastic recycling rates in that region. When it comes to the PET that is used, the industry will face a more challenging environment post- COVID as curbside recycling has been suspended and recycling facilities shuttered in some communities.
BACKGROUND. Every Bottle Back incorporates expertise from the World Wildlife Fund, the Recycling Partnership and Closed Loop Partners. A key pillar of the initiative is to reduce the use of new plastic for beverage packaging. The beverage industry aims to invest $100 million over 10 years to improve 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 investments, administered by the Recycling Partnership and Closed Loop Partners, will attract an additional $300 million in matching grants and investment for the program. The program will include a national public awareness campaign emphasizing that beverage bottles and caps are 100% recyclable and encouraging their return.
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