Skip to main content

Most Beverage Companies Fail Recycling Scorecard

Coca-Cola's cans contain more recycled aluminum than its competitors, but the company uses less recycled plastic than Pepsi.

Nestle Waters supports an ambitious beverage industry recycling goal, but its bottles have no recycled content.

Fiji Water has developed a comprehensive website about recycling and its goals, yet it has also developed the heaviest water bottle.

It's a common theme in As You Sow's 2008 report on beverage container recycling in the U.S.: companies are making big strides in some areas, yet they all have a lot of room for improvement.

Non-profit As You Sow last surveyed U.S. beverage companies in 2006, developing a report that spurred Nestle Waters to become the first major beverage producer to support legislation that would increase recycling rates. And just in October it became the first to support an industry-wide goal to recycle 60 percent of plastic bottles by 2018.

"Historically the beverage industry has lobbied against beverage container legislation," said Amy Galland, As You Sow's research director and the report's author.

As You Sow, though, recommends more companies support policies and voluntary actions that would bring recycling rates over 70 percent. The nationwide recycling rate is 33 percent, though states with deposit legislation have rates above 70 percent.

"We would like to see the industry either work with legislators to create deposit legislation that will be mutually beneficial, or come together with an alternative method that can achieve that goal of 70 percent or more," Galland said. Just prior to the report's release, the American Beverage Association announced it would be a founding member of The Climate Group's Recycle Together initiative, which will work with cities and states to increase recycling rates and develop best practices for recycling in communities.

Companies were evaluated in four categories: reduced use of virgin material, use of recycled content, support for and involvement in recovery and recycling programs and legislation, and communication of goals and achievements.

Findings from the report, "Waste & Opportunity," include:

• Coca-Cola has the lightest 20 ounce bottle, uses the highest percentage of recycled content in its aluminum cans and is building a plant in South Carolina to make recycled plastic bottles. However, Coca-Cola fell back on a commitment - also made by Pepsi - to make bottles with 10 percent recycled content.

• Although Pepsi is still using 10 percent recycled content in bottles, it has not committed to any container recovery goals, nor has it disclosed plans to increase recovery rates.

• Anheuser Busch recycles five cans for every four it produces, but it uses only the standard recycled aluminum content (41.3 percent), while Coca-Cola has 65 percent and Red Bull has 55 percent recycled content in their cans.
In this year's report, 23 companies were graded from A-F, with 4.0 being the highest score possible. Coca-Cola topped the list with a 2.02, a C. It's followed by Anheuser Busch, Pepsi and Nestle Waters, which each received a C-.

Red Bull, Fiji Water and Honest Tea got varying D grades. Some of the remaining companies (National Beverage, Miller, Coors, Monarch Beverage, Dr. Pepper/Snapple, Cott, Hansen's, Starbucks and Crystal Geyser) received F's, and seven (Adirondack, Arizona, Boston Beer, DS Waters, Jones Soda, New Belgium Beer and Polar Beverage) scored straight zeros.

Only seven of the companies responded to As Your Sow's survey, though they represent 74 percent of the U.S. carbonated soft drink market, 60 percent of the bottled water market and half of U.S beer industry. The largest companies that did not respond include Dr. Pepper/Snapple, Cott and National Beverage.  As You Sow also used publically available information on websites and in reports to rate companies.

More on this topic

More by This Author