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The Next Economy
Partnerships Laying More Groundwork for Circular Plastics Economy

The US’ biggest beverage companies have invested into ensuring they get ‘Every Bottle Back’ for recycling; Bluewater is helping Londoners ditch single-use bottles; and SC Johnson and Plastic Bank are broadening the Social Plastic ecosystem.

Leading US Beverage Companies Unite for ‘Every Bottle Back’ Initiative

  Image credit: Brian Yurasits/Unsplash

This week, the US’ leading beverage companies — The Coca-Cola Company, Keurig Dr Pepper and PepsiCo — launched the Every Bottle Back initiative, a breakthrough effort to reduce the industry’s use of new plastic by making significant investments to improve the collection of the industry’s valuable plastic bottles so they can be made into new bottles.

“The leadership exhibited by The Coca-Cola Company, Keurig Dr Pepper and PepsiCo provides the investment necessary to optimize recycling in these cities and states,” said Ron Gonen, CEO of Closed Loop Partners. “This partnership will serve as a model for the effectiveness of industry collaboration in modernizing recycling infrastructure and driving a reduction in the use of virgin plastic.”

The competitors are coming together to support a circular plastics economy by reinforcing to consumers the value of their 100 percent recyclable plastic bottles and caps; and ensuring they don’t end up as waste in oceans, rivers or landfills. This program is being executed in conjunction with two of the country’s most prominent environmental nonprofits and the leading investment firm focused on the development of the circular economy. WWF will provide strategic scientific advice to help measure the industry’s progress in reducing its plastic footprint, and The Recycling Partnership and Closed Loop Partners will assist in deploying funds for the initiative.

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“Our industry recognizes the serious need to reduce new plastic in our environment, and we want to do our part to lead with innovative solutions,” said Katherine Lugar, president and CEO of the American Beverage Association (ABA). “Our bottles are designed to be remade, and that is why this program is so important. We are excited to partner with the leading environmental and recycling organizations to build a circular system for the production, use, recovery and remaking of our bottles. Every Bottle Back will ensure that our plastic bottles are recovered after use and remade into new bottles, so we can reduce the amount of new plastic used to bring our beverages to market. This is an important step for our industry, and it builds on our ongoing commitment to protecting the environment for generations to come.”

According to the ABA, Every Bottle Back will:

  1. Measure industry progress in reducing the use of new plastic in the United States through a collaboration with ReSource: Plastic, WWF’s corporate activation hub to help companies turn their ambitious plastic waste commitments into meaningful and measurable progress by rethinking the way plastic material is produced, used and recycled. Specifically, ABA will use the ReSource accounting methodology to track the collective progress made on executing strategies to reduce the use of new plastic, as well as a resource in identifying additional interventions.

  2. Improve the quality and availability of recycled plastic in key regions of the country by directing the equivalent of $400 million to The Recycling Partnership and Closed Loop Partners through a new $100 million industry fund that will be matched three-to-one by other grants and investors. The investments will be used to improve sorting, processing and collection in areas with the biggest infrastructure gaps to help increase the amount of recycled plastic available to be remade into beverage bottles.

  3. Launch a public awareness campaign to help consumers understand the value of 100 percent recyclable bottles through community outreach and partner engagement and reinforce the importance of getting these bottles back, so they can be remade into new bottles. According to a poll conducted by Public Opinion Strategies on behalf of ABA, nearly half of consumers were unaware that the US’s leading beverage companies are already making bottles that are 100 percent recyclable, including the caps.

  1. Leverage packaging to remind consumers that recyclable bottles can be remade into new bottles. Beverage companies will begin introducing voluntary messaging on packages beginning in late 2020.

“Reaching our goal of No Plastic in Nature by 2030 will only happen if business, governments and the NGO community work together to fix a broken plastic material system,” said Sheila Bonini, SVP of private sector engagement at WWF. “ABA is driving this sense of collaboration within the beverage industry to address one critical piece within this system, which is PET recycling in the US. Measured by our ReSource: Plastic footprint tracker, the efforts made through Every Bottle Back will be met with data-driven solutions to ensure that real progress is being made. We hope the ambition raised by this initiative will inspire other industries to follow suit within the broader effort to stop plastic waste pollution.”

Added Keefe Harrison, CEO of The Recycling Partnership: “The beverage industry cannot deliver on its promises of sustainable packaging without serious improvements to the current US recycling system. Working in partnership with the beverage industry on its Every Bottle Back initiative will help to improve local recycling and provide Americans with stronger recycling programs for all materials, including plastic bottles. We applaud ABA’s members for launching meaningful, measurable work.”

The majority of plastic beverage containers in the United States are made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) — a strong, lightweight and safe plastic approved by the US FDA for use in food and beverage containers. Because of its quality and versatility, recycled PET for years has been in high demand for use in an array of products as varied as clothing, carpets and playground equipment. Through Every Bottle Back, beverage companies are stepping up efforts to reclaim as much plastic packaging as possible to ensure it is remade into new, rPET bottles.

These efforts support other sustainability efforts underway by The Coca-Cola CompanyKeurig Dr Pepper and PepsiCo.

“We have seen the meaningful impact this industry can have when we collaborate, and we are proud to be partnering to reduce our collective use of new plastic, while increasing the recycling and reuse of our 100 percent recyclable bottles,” said Derek Hopkins, Chief Commercial Officer at Keurig Dr Pepper. “The Every Bottle Back initiative supports KDP’s top environmental priority to reduce packaging waste, as we work to support a circular economy with strong collective action.” 

Bluewater launches first supermarket water dispenser to help Londoners ditch single-use plastic bottles

Image credit: Bluewater

Over in the UK, Swedish water tech and solutions leader Bluewater is helping grocery store consumers in northern London ditch single-use plastic water bottles with the global launch of its first in-store water-dispensing station and a range of re-useable, stainless steel bottles.

Shoppers at the pioneering Thornton’s Budgens supermarket in north London’s Belsize Park district can now purchase water served still or sparkling direct from an easy-to-use Bluewater station rather than plucking a plastic bottle from a store shelf.

Served chilled still or sparkling, the water is purified to remove contaminants such as lead, medical residues, pesticides, chemicals and microplastics, and then re-mineralised to add trace minerals such as calcium and magnesium.

Customers bring along their own refillable bottles to collect the water or buy a Bluewater stainless steel bottle — which, unlike their plastic counterparts, can be refilled time and again to help protect marine, human and other planet life.

“At Bluewater, we’ve made it our mission to provide people everywhere clean drinking water with our super-efficient water purifier solutions and thereby cut the huge plastic bottle waste that is harming wildlife and marine environments on a massive scale,” said Bluewater founder and CEO, Bengt Rittri, a Swedish environmental entrepreneur. “Around 525 billion plastic bottles are sold every year. Most plastic bottles are not recycled, instead ending up in landfill or our oceans to ultimately break down into microplastics and end up into our food and water chain.”

The heart of the Bluewater water station is a point-of-use Bluewater PRO water purifier, which harnesses a patented, second-generation reverse osmosis system called SuperiorOsmosis™ that removes over 99 percent of contaminants that may be found in municipal water. Water contaminants can include toxic metals such as lead; chemicals ranging from nitrates to PFAS and pesticides; pharmaceuticals including bisphenol-A, antibiotics and opiates; microorganisms and microplastics.

SC Johnson partners with Plastic Bank to fight ocean plastic, poverty

Image credit: Ocean Bottle

Meanwhile, SC Johnson and Plastic Bank have launched a global partnership to fight poverty while stopping plastic waste from entering the ocean. The three-year effort creates recycling infrastructure on a massive scale across five countries and pays residents to collect plastic in exchange for digital savings and rewards. Once the plastic is collected and exchanged, it will be recycled into the first-ever 100 percent Social Plastic® bottle, which SC Johnson will use for its Windex® line beginning in February 2020.

“More than 8 million metric tons of plastic leak into the ocean every year, so building infrastructure that stops plastic before it gets into the ocean is key to solving this issue,” said Fisk Johnson, Chairman and CEO of SC Johnson. “I’m particularly pleased that this program we developed with Plastic Bank helps to address poverty and this critical environmental issue at the same time.”

SC Johnson and Plastic Bank already have nine collection centers in Indonesia. Under the new three-year agreement, they will expand to 509 total collection centers and points across several countries including Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam — four of the five countries that contribute most to ocean plastic — and Brazil.  

With the global increase in scale that this partnership will bring, Plastic Bank plans to collect 30,000 metric tons of plastic waste over three years. This is the equivalent of stopping approximately 1.5 billion plastic bottles from entering our waterways and ocean, as 100 percent of the plastic will be collected within 30 miles of an ocean or waterway in countries without a formal waste collection infrastructure.

Extreme poverty often compounds extreme pollution, as many developing countries lack the resources necessary to build waste removal and recycling infrastructure. Researchers estimate that 8 million tons of plastic waste enter the ocean every year, and approximately 90 percent of it comes from 10 rivers around the world — eight in Asia and two in Africa. This pollution has far-reaching implications for our planet and all life on Earth.

Addressing poverty and pollution: How Social Plastic® works

Developed by Plastic Bank, the blockchain-enabled Social Plastic® ecosystem builds and activates recycling infrastructure in the world’s poorest regions and invites residents to earn a stable income by joining the effort. Residents can collect and exchange plastic for digital tokens, which can then be used to gain access to necessities, healthcare coverage, school tuition, local currency and more — reducing the risk of loss or theft. 

Residents can substantially boost their incomes, according to Plastic Bank, as they receive the spot market rate plus premium for the plastic they collect. Once collected, the plastic is recycled into Social Plastic® and sold to make new products.

“Together with SC Johnson, we now have the ability to help close the loop and advance a circular economy, while developing infrastructure in the areas where it is needed the most,” said David Katz, Plastic Bank’s founder and CEO — and keynote speaker at SB Oceans, later this month. “We are eager to expand exponentially and maximize our efforts in cleaning the environment, prohibiting waste from entering the ocean and alleviating poverty simultaneously. There is no better partner than Fisk and SC Johnson — other CEOs should take note.”

The partnership with Plastic Bank is just one way SC Johnson is carrying out its commitment to help tackle the plastic pollution crisis. The company has steadily increased the use of post-consumer recycled plastic in its products and removed excess plastics wherever possible. Since the unveiling of Windex concentrates in 2011, the company has also expanded its refill options to other popular cleaning brands including Pledge®, Scrubbing Bubbles®, Shout® and fantastik®. Every time consumers choose a concentrate product, they use nearly 80 percent less plastic.

The new line of SC Johnson concentrates launched in the US and Canada last summer — with Scrubbing Bubbles, Windex and fantastik; the next wave of concentrate refills – including Scrubbing Bubbles, Windex and Mr Muscle® – are launching in Mexico, the UK, China and Japan this fall.