Record number of beverage containers wasted by Americans in 2004

Washington, DC— Americans threw away a record number of bottles and cans according to newly released numbers from the Container Recycling Institute (CRI). 

“The decline in recycling is due to two factors,” said Pat Franklin, executive director of CRI, “lack of opportunities and lack of incentives to recycle.”

“In just one year we’ve dumped a staggering 129 billion beverage containers in trash cans instead of recycling bins,” said Franklin, “60% more than in 1990. Those glass, aluminum and plastic containers (411 for every man, woman and child in America) could have been used to make new cans or bottles, fleece jackets, carpets and a myriad of other items.”

“Can and bottle waste is on the rise,” said Franklin, “and there’s a heavy environmental price tag on all that waste.” According to CRI, the upstream environmental impacts include energy consumption equivalent to 36 million barrels of crude oil per year; the annual generation of 4.5 million tons of greenhouse gasses; the emission of a host of toxics to air and water; and damage to wildlife habitat. The downstream impacts include: an estimated 125 billion glass, aluminum and plastic containers going to landfills and incinerators; an estimated 4 billion beverage bottles and cans littering beaches, parkland and roadsides, streams, lakes, rivers and oceans, causing injury to humans, domestic animals, wildlife and marine life.

“The problem, ironically, is not a lack of markets for the materials,” said Franklin, but rather a lack of supply. The containers are not getting from the consumer to the recycling businesses.” She explained that dozens of companies rely on post-consumer bottles and cans as feedstocks to make new containers or other products, but they can’t get the containers. “Some of those companies may go out of business if they can’t get an adequate supply of scrap materials,” she said.

“Consumers, who enjoy a moment of refreshment when they drink their packaged beverage, are for the most part unaware that they are creating an eternity of waste,” said Franklin. “Beverage manufacturers reap huge profits from the sale of one-way, disposable beverage cans and bottles, but don’t want to take financial responsibility for the waste they create.”

Franklin says the Container Recycling Institute will be looking for partners in 2005: consumers, businesses, environmental organizations and public officials, who will work with the institute to reverse the wasting trend.


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