Container Recycling Institute Reports Soft Drink Container Waste Doubled Between 1992-2000

New York, NY - Marketing strategies and packaging choices used by The Coca-Cola Company and PepsiCo, Inc. led to a doubling of soft drink bottle and can waste between 1992 and the year 2000, the Container Recycling Institute said in a news conference recently.

Soft drink container waste increased from 18 billion in 1992 to 36 billion Coke and Pepsi bottles and cans in 2000, according to the Container Recycling Institute.

"Coke and Pepsi marketing strategies have increased beverage sales and profits, at the expense of taxpayers and the environment. Every year for the last decade, local government and taxpayers have been forced to pay higher taxes and fees for waste disposal, litter pickup and recycling costs because of corporate decisions by Coke and Pepsi," the Container Recycling Institute's Executive Director, Pat Franklin said.

Ms. Franklin spoke to environmental and recycling leaders gathered outside the Coca-Cola annual shareholder meeting at Madison Square Garden. Standing before a 25-foot high inflated model plastic Coke bottle, she addressed activists who want to expand the successful New York State 'bottle bill' law to place a refundable deposit on bottled water, teas, juices and sport drinks.

"Coca-Cola sells a much wider range of beverages than when the bottle bill laws in New York and nine other states were passed. Billions of these beverage containers aren't covered by deposits and most of the containers are being wasted," Ms. Franklin said.

"Coke classic is sold in containers with a 5-cent deposit and has about a 70 percent recycling rate in New York. But the fastest growing segments of the beverage market for Coca-Cola are bottled water, sports drinks, juices and teas that aren't covered by deposits, and the recycling rates for these beverages are less than 20 percent," Ms. Franklin said.

In the last decade, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo committed to marketing single- serving beverages purchased and consumed away from home, and away from convenient recycling opportunities. Sales of these beverages target younger and younger people, with schools and universities being one highly competitive marketplace for Coke and Pepsi exclusive marketing agreements. "Unfortunately, neither Coke nor Pepsi have made serious efforts to address the growing waste problem resulting from increases in away from home consumption. In New York's fast-paced business and tourist industries, an expanded bottle bill would increase recycling at virtually no cost to taxpayers," Ms. Franklin said.

"Mayor Bloomberg and the state of New York are hard-pressed financially in the wake of 9/11 and the recession, as they seek to provide essential services. An expanded deposit law would place the responsibility for litter reduction and recycling squarely on the shoulders of those who make and profit from these beverages," Ms. Franklin said.

Packaging decisions by Coca-Cola and Pepsi are increasing waste and increases recycling costs in thousands of communities across the nation. "As Coke and Pepsi have used more plastic bottles to increase profits, plastic bottle waste has exploded across the United States," CRI Senior Policy Analyst Lance King said in a separate interview with reporters.

"Waste from custom PET plastic bottles used for water, juice, sports drinks and other non-carbonated beverages increased 400 percent between 1992 and 1998. The problem continues to grow worse year by year, as sales of plastic bottles increased 10 times faster than recycling over the last decade," Mr. King said.

"Worst of all from a public policy perspective, Coke and Pepsi have fought bottle bill deposit laws for more than 30 years-- even though bottle bills are the most effective litter reduction and recycling law. The ten states with deposit laws, including New York, recycle more beverage containers than the other 40 states put together," Ms. Franklin said.

This finding emerged from a new beverage container recycling study commissioned by Businesses and Environmentalists Allied for Recycling (BEAR), a project of Global Green USA.

"While it was encouraging that The Coca-Cola Company participated in BEAR's Multi-Stakeholder Recovery Project, the company withdrew before presenting a plan to increase recycling. BEAR and the shareholder resolutions focus on achieving an 80 percent national recycling rate, which is a goal already achieved in most deposit states," Ms. Franklin said.

"Coca-Cola's board of directors needs to understand that pressure from shareholders, environmental groups and public officials will increase until the company takes responsibility for its waste," said Ms. Franklin.