Coca-Cola helps with Mississippi River cleanup

Coca-Cola helps with Mississippi River cleanup

Recovered recyclables are being processed for use in new products, including Coca-Cola bottles.

July 13, 2017
Recycling Today Staff

Atlanta-based Coca-Cola is helping to clean up the Mississippi River in St. Louis, using recovered recyclables to help close the loop in the materials supply chain. In a first for both the company and East Moline, Illinois-based Living Lands and Waters, Coca-Cola piloted a “closed-loop” system that included volunteering to collect recyclables and other debris along the Mississippi River and sorting the materials so they can be recycled into new items, such as plastic bottles to package Coca-Cola.

“The mighty Mississippi is due for a recharge," says Chad Pregracke, founder of Living Lands and Waters, which is a 501 (c)(3) environmental organization that hosts river cleanups, watershed conservation initiatives, workshops, tree plantings and other conservation efforts. "Every day, illegal dumping, littering, stormwater runoff and flood events carry thousands of tires, household appliances, containers of unidentified liquids and plastic bottles into river systems. Thanks to grants from Coca-Cola and other sponsors, as well as the dedication of our staff and the thousands of volunteers, we can make a difference in transforming the face of America’s rivers.”

Living Lands and Waters operates a fleet of barges and industrial-strength equipment designed to extract the heaviest of debris. From farm tractors to bowling balls, Pregracke, and his crew have pulled it out of the Mississippi. The collected debris is then sorted and recycled or disposed of properly.

A team of associates from Coca-Cola bottler Coca-Cola Heartland, with locations in Illinois, Kansas and Missouri, joined other volunteers to collect and sort 14,480 pounds of debris—63 percent (9,160 pounds) of which was diverted from the landfill for recycling. Coca-Cola then partnered with Phoenix Technologies, Bowling Green, Ohio, to recycle the polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles for use in new Coca-Cola bottles that are hitting store shelves throughout the month of July.

“Heartland Coca-Cola is proud to lend a hand to support the cleanup effort on the Mississippi and help close the loop on our packaging in St. Louis,” says Junior Bridgeman, CEO, Heartland Coca-Cola. “At Heartland, we are committed to serving our community, and one of the many ways we can do that is by working to preserve our waterways and help ensure our packaging is recovered and recycled.”

The Coca-Cola Foundation provided a $50,000 grant to help support 60 volunteer river cleanups this summer and fall with an estimated 3,500 participants. The company will continue to pilot the closed-loop system in collaboration with recyclers and bottle manufacturers at other cleanup sites along the Mississippi, Illinois and Ohio rivers. These cleanups are expected to remove more than 250 tons of debris primarily along the Mississippi.