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Beverage Container Recycling Program Baseline Study Released

Atlanta, GA - A unique coalition of industry, governmental agencies and environmental organizations has released a study that, for the first time, provides baseline statistics on the costs, benefits and effectiveness of programs to recover discarded beverage containers for recycling. "Understanding Beverage Container Recycling: A Value Chain Assessment" is the final report of the Multi-Stakeholder Recovery Project, Stage One. Businesses and Environmentalists Allied for Recycling (BEAR), a project of Global Green USA, launched the initiative last spring in an effort to bring together long-standing opponents in the battle over different approaches to recycling in a fact-based approach to public policy making.

Project participants included The Coca-Cola Company, Waste Management, Inc., Beaulieu of America, Tomra North America, Southeastern Container, the GrassRoots Recycling Network and the Container Recycling Institute. The report was prepared by a research consulting team comprising R.W. Beck, Inc., Franklin Associates, Ltd., the Tellus Institute and Sound Resource Management Group. Research was coordinated by the project manager, Boisson & Associates.

The report is a snapshot of U.S. Programs as they operated in 1999, and does not attempt to project how programs would perform if they were to be expanded or replicated in other areas. The report contrasts the effectiveness of different programs in detail, and verifies that deposit systems recover the highest percentage of discarded containers, followed by municipal curbside programs and residential drop-off programs. "But the cost of recovery programs is more subtle than advocates on either side have been willing to admit," said Pierre Ferrari, BEAR's Chair. The findings indicate some ways that the costs of deposit and other recycling programs can be reduced. But participants stressed that the report does not attempt to address important implementation questions regarding new or expanded recycling systems. The report also shows the environmental advantages of recycling containers. "We documented several key benefits in this collaborative process. For example, beverage container recycling saved about 147 trillion BTU in 1999. That's equivalent to over 32 million barrels of oil," said Matt Petersen, President and CEO of Global Green USA.

Project participants agreed that there is a need to continue fact-based, collaborative discussions and will invite additional stakeholders to participate. "The Multi-Stakeholder Recovery Project is a critical component of the movement to secure voluntary, long-term product stewardship agreements in the U.S.," according to Sherry Enzler, Director of the Minnesota Office of Environmental Assistance. Future efforts are likely to concentrate on addressing stakeholder concerns about different policies. One key issue is the need for aggressive market development initiatives to minimize potential market volatility associated with increasing recovery.

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