The use of post-consumer recycled materials as feedstock for new bottles and cans has become common practice for the beverage industry, but there is still more to be done to reduce waste and increase recycling. Industry giants PepsiCo and Coca-Cola are working towards overcoming these challenges by supporting eco-innovation and government initiatives.
The recipients of PepsiCo’s Zero Impact Fund — an expansion of PepsiCo Recycling’s college and university programs to help bring campus eco-innovations to life — have been announced. Eight colleges and universities will each receive a contribution from PepsiCo to help accomplish their environmental goals:
- Centre College (Danville, Ky.)
- Johnson County Community College (Overland Park, Kan.)
- Millersville University (Millersville, Pa.)
- Northern Kentucky University (Newport, Ky.)
- University of California Berkeley (Berkeley, Calif.)
- University of California Irvine (Irvine, Calif.)
- University of Massachusetts Lowell (Lowell, Mass.)
- University of Northern Iowa (Cedar Falls, Iowa)
“The Zero Impact Fund showcases great examples of the innovative and sustainable ideas that can come from college campuses,” said Tim Carey, senior director of sustainability at PepsiCo. “We’re excited to see how our Zero Impact Fund recipients will bring their campus eco-innovations to life and are proud to play a role in helping implement original ideas that reduce the impact that college campuses and their business partners have on the environment.”
Launched in August 2016, the Zero Impact Fund encouraged PepsiCo colleges and universities to submit project proposals for the 2016-2017 school year. More than 40 applications were received and one proposal per school was evaluated based on environmental, economic and social impacts, along with desirability, feasibility, longevity and ingenuity.
Winning project proposals include compost infrastructure development, student education and engagement campaigns, renewable energy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, zero waste programs, a bike share program and landfill diversion programs.
Since 2010, PepsiCo Recycling has partnered with more than 100 colleges and universities on campus recycling programs and has awarded more than $70,000 to support campus recycling efforts and increase student engagement. In addition to the Zero Impact Fund, PepsiCo Recycling offers resources for colleges and universities to reduce waste produced during collegiate athletic events and engage the campus community around sustainability.
Meanwhile, Coca-Cola has switched gears and come out in support of campaigners — including WWF, the Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland (APRS) and Marine Conservation Society — pressing the Scottish government to establish a bottle return pilot scheme aimed at boosting recycling and thereby reducing waste and pollution. Similar programs are already in existence in Australia, Canada, Norway, Sweden and Wales.
The company has been considering the benefits of a bottle and can deposit scheme, in which consumers would pay a surcharge of 10p to be repaid once the empty bottle or can is returned to a retailer.
“The time is right to trial new interventions such as a well-designed deposit scheme for drinks containers, starting in Scotland where conversations are underway,” said a Coca-Cola spokesperson.
“From our experience elsewhere in Europe, we knew that deposit schemes can work if they are developed as part of an overall strategy on the circular economy, in collaboration with all industry stakeholders. We are open to exploring any well-thought-through initiative that has the potential to increase recycling and reduce litter.”
Coca-Cola’s position marks an important step forward for the campaign and as one of the world’s biggest soft drinks manufacturers, the company’s show of support could spur other brands to adopt similar practices.
The scheme already has the backing of 79 percent of Scots and the Scottish parliament’s environment committee has recently created a sub-group to examine the possibility of a pilot.
“The momentum is now with the campaign,” said John Mayhew, APRS chief executive. “The crucial next step is for ministers to design a system that works well for the public, for local authorities and for small Scottish businesses, including retailers as well as producers. We know it can be done and we will continue to argue for a deposit system which takes account of their needs.”
Recent polling done by Coca-Cola indicates that there is significant support for a deposit return scheme across the UK, with 63 percent of consumers backing the proposal. Fifty-one percent of those that participated in the poll said they believed the program would boost recycling.
Coca-Cola’s bottles and cans are already 100 percent recyclable and the company has said that the amount of recycled plastic in its bottles would increase from 25 percent to 40 percent by 2020.