Coke: We Recycle, Why Don’t You?

By Kyra Epstein, Editorial Staff, Peak & Prairie

Every month, you do your part for the environment by recycling your plastic bottles. Have you ever wondered what happens to the plastic after it is recycled?

It sure isn’t being used by soft drink industry leader Coca Cola. In 1990, Coke promised to start making plastic soft drink bottles sold in the United States with 25 percent recycled plastic. It still hasn’t happened—and in 1997, 64 percent of all used soda bottles became waste or litter.

Coke sells more than 20 million sodas every day in the United States. They create "recyclable" plastics, but at the same time they help to undermine the recycled plastics market by refusing to buy it back.

With the recycling rate for plastic soda bottles declining dramatically from 50 percent in 1994 to 36 percent in 1997, it is time for Coke to show Americans that a promise is a promise.

Coke already uses 25 percent recycled plastic in its bottles sold in Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland and Sweden. In France and Latin America, Coke uses refillable PET plastic bottles. But in the United States they abandoned recycled plastics altogether after four years of test marketing, citing high costs.

Getting Coke to use recycled plastic isn’t the magic solution to solid waste or toxic air pollution problems in the United States. But when a megacorporation and industry leader leads, others will follow. Use your power as a consumer to tell Coke that Americans want what many other countries already have—recycled plastic.

What You Can Do:

Call Coca-Cola’s toll-free Consumer Affairs Line 800-571-2653 and tell them to bring back refillable bottles and use recycled plastic.

Sources for this story include the "Earth Island Journal," Winter 1997-98, and the GrassRoots Recycling Network in Athens, Georgia.