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Coca-Cola called upon to honor pledge to use recycled plastic in bottles on America Recycles Day

CEO Ivester must mend broken promise and end corporate greenwashing

Contact: Jill Johnson
HONE: (404) 876-7050

For Release:

Monday, November 15, 1999

Atlanta (November 15) – Citizens and environmental groups gathered in front of the World of Coca-Cola on America Recycles Day to urge the Coca-Cola Company CEO M. Douglas Ivester to comply with a pledge made by the Company in 1990 to use recycled content in its plastic soda bottles. As a sponsor of America Recycles Day, the Coca-Cola Company is asking Americans to pledge to recycle more and to buy recycled products.

"Coca-Cola is sponsoring America Recycles Day is because it wants to appear concerned about the environment," said Jill Johnson, Southern Organizer for Earth Day 2000. "Yet, it has not kept its pledge to buy recycled content to make its plastic soda bottles. Coca-Cola is undermining the recycling efforts of millions of Americans across the country. "

An Earth Day 2000 report, "Red, White and Green? Coca-Cola and Corporate Greenwashing" details how the world’s leading producer of soft drinks has not acted to its full capacity to boost recycling rates and protect the environment. It is estimated that the Coca-Cola Company produced 10 billion plastic soda bottles last year in the United States alone.

Plastic bottles are replacing aluminum cans as Coke’s most profitable containers. Unlike aluminum cans, plastic Coke bottles do not contain a significant amount of recycled material. Consequently, there is no high-value market for recycled PET plastic because Coca-Cola is not buying it back to use it to make new bottles. "The Company has the capacity to be an industry leader and drive the market," Johnson stated. "Instead, it is allowing the value of recycling plastics to remain depressed." Recycling rates for plastic soda bottles fell from a peak of 50 percent in 1994 to just 35.6 percent in 1998.

"Because Coca-Cola refuses to do the right thing, the recycling rate is plummeting and two out of every three bottles wind up in landfills or as litter," said Bill Sheehan, the director of the GrassRoots Recycling Network. Of the 10 billion plastic Coke bottles produced last year, about 6 billion entered the waste stream. According to the Container Recycling Institute, at that rate, 200 Coke bottles are entering landfills somewhere in the United States every second.

Since the Coca-Cola Company is a worldwide industry leader, the smallest of changes can produce enormous reductions in waste. The Coca-Cola website describes how, in 1993, it shaved 4 millimeters off the necks of aluminum cans. It was a move that resulted in a 20,000-ton reduction in aluminum usage in the United States that year. Likewise, it has been estimated that if Coca-Cola introduces just 25 percent recycled content into its plastic Coke bottles, the Company can keep 200 million pounds of plastic soda bottles out of the waste stream.

Coca-Cola’s attempts to defeat recycling laws have also thwarted the hardworking recycling efforts of Americans. Through its political action committees, the Coca-Cola Company contributed more than $600,000 to Congresspersons over 5 years to defeat a proposed national bottle bill.

Despite its spending to defeat one of the most effective recycling laws ever established, Coca-Cola continues to tout its supposed commitment to recycling by promoting America Recycles Day. Coca-Cola has contributed at least $5000 to support America Recycles Day in Georgia last year and also contributed to the national campaign in 1998 and 1999. Johnson said, "Through its contributions to America Recycles Day, the red and white company has attempted to paint itself green, although its investment records show otherwise."

As a sponsor of America Recycles Day, the Coca-Cola Company is urging Americans to follow simple steps to protect the environment. Last year, more than 2.1 million Americans pledge to recycle more and buy recycled products. More are expected to do so this year. "The time has come for Mr. Ivester and the Coca-Cola Company to put its commitment to helping America recycle into action and to keep their pledge to make Coke bottles out of recycled plastic," concluded Johnson.

Earth Day 2000 is the consumer clearinghouse for the environmental decade working with consumers to encourage corporations to be environmentally responsible and to keep the 30th anniversary of Earth Day on April 22, 2000 free of corporate greenwashing. Earth Day 2000 is leading efforts to call on some of America's leading corporations to take simple, sensible actions to save the planet prior to Earth Day 2000. Consumers and investors are joining students on college campuses taking a "Green Pledge" to withhold their working, buying and investment power from companies that fail to take that pledge. In this case, Coca-Cola is being asked to meet its pledge of 25 percent recycled content in its plastic bottles.

The GrassRoots Recycling Network is a North American network of community-based activists dedicated to achieving a sustainable economy based on the principle of Zero Waste. GRRN advances the principle of producer responsibility for product and packaging waste through opinion maker education and direct consumer action. GRRN highlights responsible corporations and targets wasteful corporations by direct consumer action.


march 2000