Bill Sheehan (
Sat, 14 Nov 1998 04:10:36 -0500


We have had several requests for documentation of
Coke's 1990 broken promise to use recycled plastic in
their soda bottles.

Here is an excerpt from the Coca-Cola Company's
original press release, subtitled 'Closed Loop' Process
Turns Bottles Back Into Bottles.' Interestingly, the Coke
official quoted in this and subsequent releases is none
other than M. Douglas Ivester, now top dog and C.E.O.
of Coca-Cola:

"Producing new plastic beverage bottles with a blend of
recycled plastic is a significant step ahead in plastics
recycling," says M. Douglas Ivester, senior vice
president, The Coca-Cola Company and president, Coca-
Cola USA. "The technology will allow the 'closed loop'
recycling of our plastic bottles, just as our other
suppliers use recycled aluminum and steel for cans and
recycled glass for glass bottles."
-- PR Newswire, December 4, 1990

When Coke started test marketing the new bottle in
Charlotte NC:

"This market introduction signals a new phase of
development for plastic packaging," said M. Douglas
Ivester, president, Coca-Cola USA. "The bottle made
with recycled plastic represents the latest breakthrough
in our on-going commitment to the environment through
minimizing virgin raw materials used in our packaging. ...
"One of the primary benefits of this package will be to
encourage greater recycling of plastic soft drink
packaging by consumers," Mr. Ivester said. "More than
half of all soft drink cans are recycled and we want to
reach and exceed that level with plastic packaging."
-- PR Newswire, March 12, 1991

After the test marketing:

"The Coca-Cola Company (NYSE: KO) today
announced plans to expand the introduction of plastic
soft drink bottles made with recycled plastic soft drink
bottles into southeastern and midwestern markets,
beginning in September. Today's announcement signals
the completion of a successful, five-month market test in
Charlotte, N.C.
"We're extremely pleased with the results from
Charlotte," said M. Douglas Ivester, president, Coca-
Cola USA. "Consumer acceptance of the first-ever
commercial use of soft drink bottles made with recycled
plastic soft drink bottles exceeded our expectations." . ...
"Expanding the availability of bottles made with
recycled plastic into additional markets helps the Coca-
Cola system further demonstrate 'closed-loop' recycling
while encouraging greater recycling of plastic soft drink
packaging by consumers," Mr. Ivester said.
-- PR Newswire, August 27, 1991

Here are some other sources:

"Coke and Pepsi took their long rivalry to the
environmental arena yesterday, with each company
saying it would be the first to sell soft drinks in plastic
bottles made with materials recycled from used bottles."
-- New York Times, December 5, 1990

"With their pledge to start using bottles made in part
from recycled resins, [Coke and Pepsi] will begin to
reduce dependence on petroleum-based resins."
-- Editorial, Chicago Tribune, December 14, 1990


The commitment to make recycled plastic soda bottles
was made, in part, in response to the threat of minimum
content legislation and container deposit legislation in
several states. Coke even took their recycled bottle to
Congress in the early 1990s and showed it off in
testimony aimed at stemming the call for mandates
(according to Lance King, GRRN campaign consultant).

Both Coke and Pepsi used some recycled plastic in
select markets for several years -- until about 1994 or
1995 when public interest in recycling appeared to wane
and the threat of legislation seemed to disappear. Coke
currently uses zero recycled plastic in the 8 to 10 billion
plastic soda bottles it sells in the U.S. each year.
Likewise, Pepsi uses no recycled plastic.

Coke says it costs too much to do what almost everyone
agrees is 'the real thing' -- buy recycled content bottles.
This may make sense in a strict, internalized-cost sense.
But in the larger sense, it is clearly not true. The
external costs to society of not recycling are

Coke notes proudly that they use plastic bottles with
recycled content, as well as environmentally preferable
refillable bottles, in other countries, due to strict
governmental mandates on recycling. Coke has spent
millions of its $1.6 billion annual global advertising
budget fighting such mandates (minimum content
legislation and bottle bills), especially in the U.S. We
have seen how far voluntary promises to recycle plastic
got us. Perhaps what Coke is really saying is that they
need a little push from mandates to make good on their
voluntary commitments?


About PEPSI: Pepsi has done no better than Coke.
GRRN is focusing on Coke because it is the market
leader (44% of the U.S. market compared with Pepsi's
32%; 50% of the world market vs. Pepsi's 20%). If Coke
decides to change its ways Pepsi will follow Coke's lead
just like it did in 1990.

It would seem to be in Coke's long-term interest to
position itself as part of the solution, rather than remain
firmly lodged as part of the problem. Who knows, if
Pepsi were smart, it would pre-empt Coke -- maybe
even leapfrog to embracing deposits and refillables!

Bill Sheehan
Network Coordinator
GrassRoots Recycling Network
P.O. Box 49283
Athens GA 30604-9283
Tel: 706-613-7121
Fax: 706-613-7123