Some of America’s leading beverage companies—The Coca-Cola Company, Keurig Dr Pepper (KDP) and PepsiCo—announced the launch of the Every Bottle Back initiative, a breakthrough effort to reduce the industry’s use of new plastic by making significant investments to improve the collection of the industry’s valuable plastic bottles so they can be made into new bottles. These competitors are joining forces to support the circular plastics economy by reinforcing to consumers the value of their 100 percent recyclable plastic bottles and caps and ensuring they don’t end up as waste in oceans, rivers or landfills.
This program is being executed in conjunction with two of the country’s most prominent environmental nonprofits and the leading investment firm focused on the development of the circular economy. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) will provide strategic scientific advice to help measure the industry’s progress in reducing its plastic footprint, and The Recycling Partnership and 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,” said Katherine Lugar, president and CEO of the American Beverage Association (ABA), in a statement. “Our bottles are designed to be remade, and that is why this program is so important. We are excited to partner with the leading environmental and recycling organizations to build a circular system for the production, use, recovery and remaking of our bottles. Every Bottle Back will ensure that our plastic bottles are recovered after use and remade into new bottles, so we can reduce the amount of new plastic used to bring our beverages to market. This is an important step for our industry, and it builds on our ongoing commitment to protecting the environment for generations to come.”
The Every Bottle Back initiative, spearheaded by ABA, 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 to help companies turn their ambitious plastic waste commitments into meaningful and measurable progress by rethinking the way plastic material is produced, used and recycled. Specifically, ABA will use the ReSource: Plastic accounting methodology to track the collective progress made on executing strategies to reduce the use of new plastic as well as a resource in identifying additional interventions.
- 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. The investments will be used to improve sorting, processing and collection in areas with the biggest infrastructure gaps to help increase the amount of recycled plastic available to be remade into beverage bottles.
- Launch a public awareness campaign to help consumers understand the value of 100 percent recyclable bottles through community outreach and partner engagement and reinforce the importance of getting these bottles back, so they can be remade into new bottles. According to a poll conducted by Public Opinion Strategies on behalf of ABA, nearly half of consumers were unaware that America’s leading beverage companies are already making bottles that are 100 percent recyclable, including the caps.
- Work together to leverage packaging 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 beginning in late 2020.
“Reaching our goal of No Plastic in Nature by 2030 will only happen if business, governments and the NGO [nongovernmental organizations] community work together to fix a broken plastic material system,” said Sheila Bonini, senior vice president of private sector engagement at WWF, in a statement. “ABA is driving this sense of collaboration within the beverage industry to address one critical piece within this system, which is PET [polyethylene terephthalate] recycling in the U.S. Measured by our ReSource: Plastic footprint tracker, the efforts made through Every Bottle Back will be met with data-driven solutions to ensure that real progress is being made. We hope the ambition raised by this initiative will inspire other industries to follow suit within the broader effort to stop plastic waste pollution.”
“The beverage industry cannot deliver on its promises of sustainable packaging without serious improvements to the current U.S. recycling system,” said Keefe Harrison, CEO of The Recycling Partnership, in a statement. “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.”
“The leadership exhibited by The Coca-Cola Company, Keurig Dr Pepper and PepsiCo provides the investment necessary to optimize recycling in these cities and states,” said Ron Gonen, CEO of Closed Loop Partners, in a statement. “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.”
The majority of plastic beverage containers in the United States are made from PET, a strong, lightweight and safe plastic approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use in food and beverage containers. It is unique, and because of its quality and versatility, recycled PET for years has been in high demand for use in an array of products as varied as clothing, carpets and playground equipment. 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.
These efforts support other sustainability efforts underway by The Coca-Cola Company, Keurig Dr Pepper and PepsiCo.
“We’re proud to come together with our competitors to address the serious issue of plastic waste in our environment,” said Jim Dinkins, president of Coca-Cola North America, in a statement. “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.”
“We have seen the meaningful impact this industry can have when we collaborate, and we are proud to be partnering to reduce our collective use of new plastic, while increasing the recycling and reuse of our 100 percent recyclable bottles,” said Derek Hopkins, chief commercial officer of Keurig Dr Pepper, in a statement. “The Every Bottle Back initiative supports KDP’s top environmental priority to reduce packaging waste, as we work to support a circular economy with strong collective action.”
“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,” said Kirk Tanner, CEO of PepsiCo Beverages North America, in a statement. “More recycled plastic lessens the need for new plastic.”