[GRRN] Boycott of PET container

Pat Franklin (cri@container-recycling.org)
Mon, 18 Oct 1999 18:30:51 -0400 (EDT)


". . . I would also suggest that GRRN and others consider a boycott of
PET containers in general and support the purchase of juice and soda in
glass or aluminum (which we all know has recycled content)."

I want to respond . . . . .

Choosing one container material over another is tricky. It is true that
aluminum beverage cans have a relatively high recycled content level, thanks
to the relatively high (but still an "F" in my book) aluminum can recycling
rate of 56% in 1998. I would also like to add that without the VERY high
recovery rates for aluminum cans in container deposit states, the aluminum
can recycling rate (and thus the amount of recycled content in aluminum
cans) would be far below 56%.

We recycled 56 billion out of the approximately 100 billion cans sold. That
means 45 billion aluminum cans were trashed last year.

I have taken a crack at the 'energy' numbers and would welcome readers to

In order to get a handle on the energy savings realized if 24 billion PET
soda bottles were replaced with 24 billion aluminum cans I made the
following assumptions:

Assumption #1: The PET bottles would be replaced by aluminum cans on a PER
UNIT basis not a volume basis. In fact, it is more likely that more units
of aluminum cans would be made to deliver the larger volume of soda
delivered by PET bottles.

Assumption #2:
194 mill btu's needed to make a ton of aluminum cans from virgin materials
45 mill btu's needed to make a ton of aluminum cans from recycled cans
47 mill btu's needed to make a ton of PET bottles from virgin materials

At 47 mill btu's per ton of new PET bottles, it takes about 40,285,714 mill
btu's of energy to produce 24 billion PET bottles -- the number of PET soda
bottles produced in 1998.

At the 1998 recycling rate of 56%, 13.2 billion new cans would be produced
from recycled cans, using 9,000,000 mill btu's of energy. Another 10.8
billion new cans from would be made from virgin materials, using 31,745,454
mill btu's of energy. Together that's about 40,000,000 mill btu's of energy
to make the 24 billion cans (45% from raw materials and 56% from recycled cans).

If my calculations are accurate, there would be no energy savings if the 24
billion PET soda bottles were replaced UNIT FOR UNIT with 24 billion
aluminum cans.

Now I realize this is just taking the energy use into consideration, but it
should certainly be part of the discussion.

Anyone care to comment??????

Pat Franklin

At 10:39 AM 10/18/99 -0400, David wrote:
>This is my take on the Coke issue:
>We've come through a decade where the corporate community has essentially
>been taken at its word that it will voluntarily become environmentally
>responsible. It all started with the McToxics campaign against McDonalds
>and their Styrofoam clamshells (plus many more products they used). Coke
>made their "promise" a few years after that. The newspaper industry
>developed voluntary recycled content standards, the corporate world
>committed to buying recycled, etc. etc. Today you're hearing lots from
>people in the carpet industry, the computer industry and the automobile
>industry. While all of these voluntary initiatives seem positive, some of
>them haven't panned out...or don't hit the mark. Some too may be too little
>too late. And some may actually be important (take Collins & Aikman's bold
>carpet recycling initiative, ALL of their product lines now use their
>patented carpet backing composed of recycled carpet).
>While all of these voluntary programs have been talked up in the press here
>in the States, we know that Europe has taken a different tack. Extended
>producer responsibility is in full swing across the Atlantic. They have in
>effect regulated corporate environmental responsibility. There are many
>reasons for this. Some are cultural and some are geographic.
>Indeed, it is rather obvious that allowing the voluntary approach to EPR is
>rather too open-ended. There are bound to be endless cases of marketing
>blitz and glitz with little substance...or in cases like Coke's, attitude
>adjustments necessitated by the desire to stretch profits. The question we
>need to ask ourselves as a society is whether there might need to be a few
>teeth in the old dog's mouth afterall. Regulatory approaches are frought
>with problems, are subject to the idiocies of politics, and even in the
>best situations can take decades to work, but the laissez faire approach is
>probably not going to structurally solve our waste and resource problems
>...not until we develop a way to create an economic system that
>incorporates the externalities of pollution and the future costs of
>resource extraction.
>I don't know how you can regulate recycled content for Coke without
>requiring it of all users of PET bottles. Same would be true of recycled
>content paper, etc. And then the hue and cry from industry, and the
>discovery that the industry doesn't have the capacity, etc. But if you
>really want the problem to be solved that's how it could work.
>Personally, I would also suggest that GRRN and others consider a boycott of
>PET containers in general and support the purchase of juice and soda in
>glass or aluminum (which we all know has recycled content).
>Does any of this make sense?
>David Biddle
>Center for Solid Waste Research
>7366 Rural Lane
>Philadelphia, PA 19119
Container Recycling Institute
1911 Ft Myer Drive, Suite 900
Arlington, Virginia 22209
703/276-9800 fax 276-9587