Posted by John Kalkowski

January 30, 2014

3 Min Read
Beverage brands open to EPR, study finds

Several major U.S. beverage brands would support laws making producers financially responsible for collection and recycling of post-consumer beverage packaging, according to a new report assessing corporate progress on recycling released by As You Sow, a shareholder advocacy group that promotes environmental and social corporate responsibility.

The new report, "Waste & Opportunity: U.S. Beverage Container Recycling Scorecard and Report," is As You Sow's third review of the beverage industry since 2006. Nestlé Waters North America received the highest ranking, followed closely by PepsiCo, The Coca-Cola Co. and Red Bull. All four received a letter grade of B-. 

The report discusses new efforts by several companies to promote Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) mandates to reverse lagging U.S. bottle and can recycling rates. 

"The major development since our last survey has been the willingness of leading beverage companies to consider new legislative mandates requiring them to take responsibility for their post-consumer packaging," says Conrad MacKerron, senior director of As You Sow's corporate social responsibility program. "Many beverage and consumer packaged goods companies pay fees in other countries to finance recovery of their packaging. It's significant that companies are finally acknowledging the need to take responsibility in the U.S. as well."

Of the 224 billion beverage containers sold annually in the U.S., only 29 percent by weight are recycled; the rest are landfilled or incinerated, resulting in a waste of natural resources. In Europe and Canada, where EPR laws are in place, higher levels of containers are recovered.

The report is based on original research and scores companies on key performance areas in packaging. Grades were based on information submitted by companies who responded to the survey. Those who did not respond were scored based on publicly available information.

"Several leading beverage companies continue to make steady incremental progress on source reduction but have not demonstrated strong commitments to using recycled content-a significant driver in reducing the environmental impact of packaging," says Amy Galland, As You Sow's research director and author of the study.
Brewing companies were notably absent from the survey participants. For instance, Anheuser-Busch did not participate, but that company received the second highest score in the 2008 edition of this report. 

Key findings
Several survey respondents said that in developing a recycling program, they are most likely to support programs that set recycling fees paid by producers or importers that are included in the price of the product and administered by industry.

The Coca-Cola Co., historically opposed to container deposit systems, indicated it is now "neutral" on a deposit system administered by an independent third party, an apparent softening of its position.

Other findings include: 

• PepsiCo continues to have the highest use of recycled PET, 10 percent across all product lines, with a commitment to increase this percentage.

• Coca-Cola was unable to meet a commitment to use 10 percent rPET across product lines in 2010. 

• New Belgium Brewing Co. uses 50 percent recycled glass in its 22-oz bottles. 

• Nestlé Waters uses 50 percent rPET in its re-source brand bottles, but lacks a company-wide commitment for reprocessed PET or rPET.

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