Re: [GRRN] Boycott of PET container

John Reindl (
Tue, 19 Oct 1999 08:12:09 -0600

Pat ~

I didn't check over your math in a detailed fashion, but I support your
general concern -- before deciding on which container is 'best' for a
particular application, we need to look at the entire life cycle of the
container and all the impacts.

It is true that aluminum cans bring in a lot of revenue to recycling
programs and have recycled content. But the use of aluminum has
some horrendous environmental impacts, including a very high global
greenhouse gas impact.

And economically, while plastic is very expensive to recycle, in my
system, glass bottles are just as expensive, if not more so.

I would be quite willing to boycott all of Coke's products until they start
assuming responsibility for the cost of recycling all of their containers,
as they do in other countries.

John Reindl, Recycling Manager
Dane County, WI

> David,
> ". . . 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
> >215-247-2974
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> Container Recycling Institute
> 1911 Ft Myer Drive, Suite 900
> Arlington, Virginia 22209
> 703/276-9800 fax 276-9587
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