Keep America Beautiful launches school bottle recycling program in Flint, Michigan

Keep America Beautiful launches school bottle recycling program in Flint, Michigan

Coca-Cola, Nestlé Waters North America, the PepsiCo Foundation and the Wal-Mart Foundation are supporting the education initiative.

Pictured above, from left: Jim Winkler, vice president and regional general manager, Wal-Mart; Bruce Karas, vice president, environment and sustainability, The Coca-Cola Co.; Scott Henzi, regional vice president, PepsiCo; Nelson Switzer, chief sustainability officer, Nestle Waters North America; Karen West, executive director, Keep Genesee County Beautiful; Pamela Haldy, superintendent, Ritchfield Public Academy; and Sharrece Farris, deputy superintendent, Flint Community Schools. (Photo by Chris Farina, Futura Photography)

The Coca-Cola Co., Nestlé Waters North America, the PepsiCo Foundation and the Wal-Mart Foundation say they have partnered to fund an integrated recycling education and awareness initiative for the 10,000 school students affected by the Flint, Michigan, water crisis, led by Stamford, Connecticut-based national nonprofit Keep America Beautiful (KAB) and its local Flint affiliate, Keep Genesee County Beautiful (KGCB).

In January 2016, the four companies said they would provide up to 6.5 million bottles of safe and clean drinking water to Flint school students. From the outset of the program, they have been providing for the storage and delivery of the bottled water and for the transportation of the empty water bottles for recycling.

The new initiative provides funding for a multitiered educational approach aimed at increasing the number of plastic bottles that are recycled within school grounds and to create opportunities to provide students, teachers and staff with the knowledge and the passion to recycle at home, at school and on-the-go, KAB says.

“Keep America Beautiful is thrilled to receive broad support from a host of partners in our efforts to educate, motivate and activate Flint’s students, teachers and the broader school community to properly recycle the tremendous amount of material that is being generated,” says Brenda Pulley, senior vice president, recycling, KAB. “This is a great opportunity for us to work closely with Keep Genesee County Beautiful to make a meaningful difference in improving recycling throughout Flint and to teach the next generation of environmental stewards the benefits of recycling and how to recycle right.”

The K-12 school-based program objectives are to:

  • provide outreach, tools, resources and activities to educate, motivate and activate students, staff and teachers to recycle more and recycle right;
  • organize, support and share resources with recycling champions at each school to support day-to-day recycling efforts;
  • share best practices and support school personnel responsible for collecting and consolidating recycling at each school on proper recycling bin placement, signage and collection of the recyclables; and
  • track and report the amount of recyclables being collected by the schools with the goal of achieving a 25 percent increase in recycling.

“Promoting recycling education and infrastructure to Flint schools in partnership with Keep America Beautiful is important and something we are actively engaged in,” says Aaron Stallings, Wal-Mart market manager for the north central division. “We see this program contributing to a more resilient and sustainable Flint.”

Bruce Karas, vice president, environment and sustainability, the Coca-Cola Co. North America, says, “The Coca-Cola Co. understands the importance of ongoing support for the residents of the city of Flint. Providing water for daily use was the first step and the promotion of recycling and recycling education round out this support. We must all do our part to ensure that residents’ needs are met and the City of Flint returns to the viable and vibrant city we all know it can be.”

“Water is a human right, and as soon as the PepsiCo team learned about Flint and their drinking water supply, we reached out to be part of creating sustainable, local solutions,” says Tim Carey, senior director sustainability and recycling, PepsiCo. “We all want to be part of communities with abundant natural resources, so PepsiCo is pleased to support the City of Flint and other partners to give back to Genesee County. We’re striving to collect every bottle and every can as part of this powerful partnership.”

Nelson Switzer, chief sustainability officer for Nestlé Waters North America, says, “Access to clean, safe drinking water is the right of every man, woman and child. That is why helping our neighbors in Flint is something we've been proud to do. But our shared commitment doesn’t end there. We now need to work together so the bottles the coalition used to deliver safe drinking water are recovered and recycled. Together with our coalition partners and the families of Flint, we are very pleased to kick-start a massive recycling opportunity.”

KAB says it is working with KGCB to tailor the recycling educational lesson plans, tools and activities for Flint’s students, while KGCB staff and volunteers conduct ongoing recycling education and program implementation. Resources include take-home materials designed to bring the school education and experience home, reaching families in their residences to also enhance curbside recycling participation.

“Since this crisis began, Keep Genesee County Beautiful has been the ‘go-to’ recycling resource for the Flint community,” says Karen West, program director/lead consultant, KGCB. “We help Flint residents cope with the water crisis by raising awareness and educating residents about the benefits of recycling, by signing up residents for curbside recycling and being a pickup point for recycling bins.

“We are incredibly grateful for this financial support and appreciate the opportunity to work with Keep America Beautiful and the students and staff of Flint schools to encourage, educate and engage the community in recycling,” West continues.

KAB says it is providing materials from its Waste in Place curriculum; its “I Want To Be Recycled” public service advertising campaign; Recycle-Bowl, its national in-school K-12 recycling competition; America Recycles Day and other resources as part of the overall programming to improve the in-school recycling rate.