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November 2006

Beverage companies lack fizz in recycling, report finds

San Francisco, CA— Major United States beverage companies received failing grades in a study of the recycling performance of their containers.

“Waste and Opportunity: U.S. Beverage Container Recycling Scorecard and Report”, a report card on the beverage industry’s recycling efforts released by corporate social responsibility group As You Sow and Container Recycling Institute, gave PepsiCo and Coca-Cola Co. the highest grades; both earned a C. All other companies scored D- or F with Cadbury Schweppes, Cott and National Beverage performing worst.

“Both Coca-Cola and PepsiCo have shown some leadership by using 10% recycled content in plastic bottles and promising to work with competitors toward setting beverage container recovery goals,” said As You Sow research director Nishita Bakshi, author of the report. “However, most other companies have done little to nothing to significantly improve recycling rates.”

American consumers purchase over 500 million beverage bottles and cans, on average, every day. Only one-third are recycled while two-thirds are landfilled, incinerated or littered. This results in major pollution and energy impacts, and depletion of aluminum ore and petroleum resources.

Producing containers using virgin resources increases greenhouse gas emissions. If the current container recycling rate of 34% were increased to 80%, avoided greenhouse gas emissions would be equivalent to taking 2.4 million cars off the road for one year, the report said.

The report evaluated 12 leading beverage companies including the top five carbonated soft drink manufacturers, Coca-Cola Co, Pepsi Cola North America, Cadbury Schweppes, Cott Corp. and National Beverage, the top three bottled water manufacturers, PepsiCo, Coca-Cola and Nestlé Waters North America, and the top three beer companies, Anheuser-Busch, Miller Brewing and Coors Brewing, as well as New Belgium Breweries, Polar Beverages and Starbucks.

“There has been insufficient action by the beverage industry to significantly increase beverage container recovery,” said Conrad MacKerron, director of the group’s Corporate Social Responsibility Program. “Bottled water sales have grown nearly 700% in the last 8 years, yet stand-alone water companies have shown no leadership in using recycled content or improving recycling rates.”

“Beverage sales jumped five-fold in the last 30 years while container recycling rates have dropped from 53% in 1992 to 34% in 2004,” said Patricia Franklin, executive director of Container Recycling Institute (CRI). “Each year we are producing more beverages but recycling a smaller portion of those containers.” CRI partnered with As You Sow in producing the report.

The report was undertaken to provide current data on recycling efforts for consumers, investors and other corporate stakeholders. “As institutional investors, we believe it is important for this information to be compiled so that we are able to measure company performance over time and relative to industry peers,” said Kenneth Scott, portfolio manager at Walden Asset Management, a socially responsive investment firm. As You Sow and Walden have filed shareholder proposals with Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo to encourage them to improve their performance on recycled content and container recovery.

The recycling report makes five recommendations for beverage companies to reduce environmental impact: use higher levels of recycled content in their bottles; set a national beverage container recovery goal, support public policies and voluntary measures that increase recycling; develop design innovations leading to less packaging material; and publicly report on their progress to stakeholders.

The report is found at www.container-recycling.org/publications/scorecard.htm.


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