Three of the largest plastic bottle distributors in America, one with close ties to North Texas, are vowing to decrease plastic waste by investing more than $100 million in recycling collection, processing and education.
The American Beverage Association, which includes Coca-Cola Co., PepsiCo and Keurig Dr Pepper, announced the investment at a Tuesday news conference in Washington, D.C, saying they want to prompt consumers to regularly recycle their products. Dr Pepper is headquartered in Plano.
“It has grown to be a crisis,” said Sheila Bonini, a senior vice president at the World Wildlife Fund, who will oversee the investment. “It’s a crisis because the system that should be circular is broken.”
The association will work with the Recycling Partnership, a nonprofit that assists cities in improving recycling, and Closed Loop Partners, a firm that invests in recycling systems, to distribute the funds. The association said the $100 million investment will combine with matching investments to create a roughly $400 million fund.
The beverage companies say their bottles are 100% recyclable but not enough of the used bottles are being recycled by consumers. The bottles are made of PET plastic, which is the most recycled plastic in the world, according to the PET Resin Association.
“Our plastic bottles were never intended to be single-use,” said Katherine Lugar, president and CEO of the American Beverage Association. “They are being designed intentionally to be fully recyclable. This is a long term and sustained initiative that will ensure our bottles end up back on shelves and not as litter or in landfills or in waterways.”
Texas will receive particular attention from the initiative. It’s one of the four regions that will be targeted due to its concentration of plants that recycle PET plastic.
The association didn’t cite a specific goal for the percentage of their bottles they want to be recycled, but all three companies have previously pledged to greatly increase the percentage of their bottles that are made out of recycled materials. Coke has pledged that half its bottles will be made from recycled materials by 2030. Pepsi wants 33% of its beverage bottles to be made from recycled material by 2025; Keurig Dr Pepper wants them in 30% of its packaging by 2025.
Reaching those targets will be difficult. Wood Mackenzie, a consulting firm for the oil and gas industry, estimates plastic bottle collection rates would have to rise 38% by 2025 and 78% by 2030 to meet them. Right now, only around 6% of U.S. bottles are made from recycled plastic, according to the Recycling Partnership. In some regions of the country, that number is as high as 20%.
On Capitol Hill, two Democratic lawmakers, California Rep. Alan Lowenthal and New Mexico Sen. Tom Udall, expressed support for the initiative but said the companies “share significant responsibility for the growing plastic waste crisis.” The two lawmakers are drafting a bill they say will address the plastic waste crisis.
“Building bottles out of 100 percent recyclable material is welcome news, and taking ‘every bottle back’ is indeed a worthy goal, but we cannot just say the words and wish it so — we need to back up those words with real, concrete action. And other industries that sell single-use plastic products need to step up as well,” Lowenthal and Udall said in a joint statement released prior to the news conference.
For their part, the companies said the investment would change the way plastic is handled in the U.S.
“We have a unique opportunity to leverage the power of the three leading beverage companies to implement a truly systemic change to the way we handle plastic,” said Derek Hopkins, the CEO of Keurig Dr Pepper.