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Beverage Container Generation Outpacing Recycling, Report Concludes

Article-Beverage Container Generation Outpacing Recycling, Report Concludes

Recycling of beverage containers sold in the United States did not keep pace with the growth of container sales from 2000 to 2010, according to a new study by the Container Recycling Institute (CRI).

The report issued by the Culver City, Calif.-based CRI shows that sales of disposable beverage containers climbed 22 percent by 2010 from 10 years earlier. As a result, by 2010 243 billion beverage containers were sold, and 153 billion were either landfilled, littered or incinerated, the CRI said in a news release.

That put what CRI called the “national wasting rate” at 63 percent, an increase from the rate in 2000 of 59 percent. In 1990, the non-recycling rate stood at 52 percent.

The report, titled, “Bottled Up: Beverage Container Recycling Stagnates (2000-2010),” suggest numerous reasons for this trend, including bottled water sales jumping more than 400 percent during that period and increased sales of beverages consumed away from home. “Recycling rates have stagnated in large part due to a dramatic increase in consumption of these beverages, especially at businesses and in public spaces where recycling bins are scarce,” said Susan Collins, CRI president. “Another key factor in the decline in recycling rates is the unwillingness of state legislatures to enact effective recycling policies, especially new or expanded container deposit laws.” 

The decline in recycling of bottles means more energy is required to extract virgin materials and more greenhouse gases are emitted.

“If we are to adequately reduce the environmental consequences of extracting, processing, manufacturing and shipping billions of short-lived containers, national recycling rates for all major container materials must edge above 90 percent,” Collins said. “And the only recycling method shown to achieve anywhere near that level of recovery is the refundable container deposit, an early form of extended producer responsibility.”

The study is based on more than two dozen data sources, from the beverage market to U.S. census tables.


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