Sustainability alert: US beverage companies launch Every Bottle Back initiative

Plus, SC Johnson and Plastic Bank partner to fight ocean plastic and more sustainability-related news.

U.S. beverage companies launch Every Bottle Back initiative.
American Beverage Association

The Coca-Cola Co., Atlanta, Keurig Dr Pepper, Plano, Texas, and PepsiCo, Purchase, New York, have launched of the Every Bottle Back initiative, an effort to reduce the industry’s use of new plastic by making significant investments to improve the collection of PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles.

The competitors are coming together to support the circular plastics economy by reinforcing the value of their 100 percent recyclable plastic bottles and caps to consumers and ensuring they don’t end up in oceans, rivers or landfills, according to the American Beverage Association (ABA) news release.

This program is being executed in conjunction with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Switzerland, which will provide strategic scientific advice to help measure the industry’s progress in reducing its plastic footprint, and The Recycling Partnership, Falls Church, Virginia, and New York-based Closed Loop Partners will assist in deploying funds for the initiative.

“Our industry recognizes the serious need to reduce new plastic in our environment, and we want to do our part to lead with innovative solutions,” says Katherine Lugar, president and chief executive officer of ABA. “Our bottles are designed to be remade, and that is why this program is so important.”

Spearheaded by ABA, the Every Bottle Back initiative will:

  • measure industry progress in reducing the use of new plastic in the United States through a collaboration with ReSource: Plastic, WWF’s corporate activation hub; 
  • improve the quality and availability of recycled plastic in key regions of the country by directing the equivalent of $400 million to The Recycling Partnership and Closed Loop Partners through a new $100 million industry fund that will be matched three-to-one by other grants and investors that will be used to improve sorting, processing and collection in areas with the biggest infrastructure gaps; 
  • launch a public awareness campaign to reinforce to consumers the importance of getting these bottles back, so they can be remade into new bottles; and
  • work together to remind consumers that bottles are 100 percent recyclable and can be remade into new bottles. Beverage companies will begin introducing voluntary messaging on packages in late 2020.

“Reaching our goal of No Plastic in Nature by 2030 will only happen if business, governments and the NGO community work together to fix a broken plastic material system,” says Sheila Bonini, senior vice president of private sector engagement at WWF. “ABA is driving this sense of collaboration within the beverage industry to address one critical piece within this system, which is PET recycling in the U.S.”

Keefe Harrison, CEO of The Recycling Partnership, adds, “The beverage industry cannot deliver on its promises of sustainable packaging without serious improvements to the current U.S. recycling system. Working in partnership with the beverage industry on its Every Bottle Back initiative will help to improve local recycling and provide Americans with stronger recycling programs for all materials, including plastic bottles. We applaud ABA’s members for launching meaningful, measurable work.”

Ron Gonen, CEO of Closed Loop Partners, remarks, “The leadership exhibited by The Coca-Cola Co, Keurig Dr Pepper and PepsiCo provides the investment necessary to optimize recycling in these cities and states. This partnership will serve as a model for the effectiveness of industry collaboration in modernizing recycling infrastructure and driving a reduction in the use of virgin plastic.”

Through the Every Bottle Back initiative, beverage companies are stepping up efforts to reclaim as much plastic packaging as possible to ensure it is remade into new PET bottles.

 “We know we cannot do this alone and, in order to meet our goals and those of our industry, we need to work in partnership to drive collective action to ensure our bottles have second, third and fourth lives through continued recycling and reuse,” says Jim Dinkins, president of Coca-Cola North America.

“At PepsiCo, we are striving to build a world where plastics need never become waste. We are proud to collaborate with others in the industry and respected partners to advance that vision and to do the hard work needed to educate consumers, enable collections and inspire action to recycle our plastic bottles,” says Kirk Tanner, CEO of PepsiCo Beverages North America. “More recycled plastic lessens the need for new plastic.”

SC Johnson launches global partnership to fight ocean plastic, poverty

SC Johnson, Racine, Wisconsin, and Plastic Bank, Vancouver, launched a global partnership to stop postconsumer plastic from entering the ocean and fight poverty. The three-year effort creates recycling infrastructure on a massive scale across five countries and pays residents to collect plastic in exchange for digital savings and rewards, according to an SC Johnson news release.

Once the plastic is collected and exchanged, it will be recycled into the first 100 percent Social Plastic bottle, which SC Johnson will use for its Windex line beginning February 2020.

“More than 8 million metric tons of plastic leak into the ocean every year, so building infrastructure that stops plastic before it gets into the ocean is key to solving this issue,” says Fisk Johnson, chairman and CEO of SC Johnson. “I’m particularly pleased that this program we developed with Plastic Bank helps to address poverty and this critical environmental issue at the same time.”

SC Johnson and Plastic Bank already have nine collection centers in Indonesia. Under the new three-year agreement, they will expand to 509 total collection centers and points across several countries including Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam– four of the five countries that contribute most to ocean plastic –and Brazil.

With the global increase in scale that this partnership will bring, Plastic Bank plans to collect 30,000 metric tons of postconsumer plastic over three years. This is the equivalent of stopping approximately 1.5 billion plastic bottles from entering waterways and ocean, as 100 percent of the plastic will be collected within 30 miles of an ocean or waterway in countries without a formal waste collection infrastructure.

Developed by Plastic Bank, the Social Plastic ecosystem builds and activates recycling infrastructure in the world’s poorest regions and invites residents to earn a stable income by joining the effort. Residents can collect and exchange plastic for digital tokens. Using blockchain technology, they can use the tokens in exchange for access to necessities, healthcare coverage, school tuition, local currency and more.

“Together with SC Johnson, we now have the ability to help close the loop and advance a circular economy while developing infrastructure in the areas where it is needed the most,” says David Katz, Plastic Bank’s founder and CEO. “We are eager to expand exponentially and maximize our efforts in cleaning the environment, prohibiting waste from entering the ocean and alleviating poverty simultaneously. There is no better partner than Fisk and SC Johnson. Other CEOs should take note.”

Gerber and TerraCycle launch national recycling program

Gerber, Florham Park, New Jersey, has partnered with Trenton, New Jersey-based TerraCycle to help give hard-to-recycle baby food packaging a new life. This partnership is rooted in Gerber and TerraCycle’s shared values around eliminating waste and supports the recovery of hard-to-recycle baby food packaging on a national scale, according to a Gerber news release.

To participate, parents can sign up on the Gerber Recycling Program page and mail in packaging that is not municipally recyclable using a prepaid shipping label. Once collected, the packaging is cleaned and melted into hard plastic that can be remolded to make new recycled products.

“Through this free recycling program, Gerber is offering parents an easy way to divert waste from landfills by providing a responsible way to dispose of certain hard-to-recycle baby food packaging,” says TerraCycle CEO and Founder Tom Szaky. “By collecting and recycling these items, families can demonstrate their respect for the environment not only through the products that they choose for their children but also with how they dispose of the packaging.”

As an added incentive, for every pound of recycled packaging sent to TerraCycle through the Gerber Recycling Program, collectors can earn $1 to donate to a nonprofit, school or charitable organization of their choice.

This partnership is one of many steps toward Gerber’s goal to achieve 100 percent recyclable or reusable packaging by 2025.

“We’re thrilled to partner with TerraCycle as part of our broader sustainable packaging efforts,” says Gerber President and CEO Bill Partyka. “We know every parent’s top priority is to ensure a healthy, happy future for their baby. Our commitment to sustainability is rooted in giving parents a hand in making their baby’s future that much brighter.”

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