Coke Crushes Successful Container Recycling Program

Aluminum cans and plastic beverage bottles are two of the most prolific types of waste. Beverage companies claim sustainable goals and develop “less wasteful” versions of these containers, but their true colors are revealed when consumers ask them to put their money where their mouth is.

Coca-Cola, Schweppes and Lion recently won a court battle that ruled Australia’s successful “Cash for Containers” program illegal. The program required bottlers to pay a 10 cent refund to customers who returned containers to approved recycling centers. Turns out these companies only support eco-friendly schemes when it doesn’t affect their bottom line.

coke, recycling

Image via leeco/Flickr

According to ABC, the beverage companies claimed that the program, which would breached federal law because it required different production processes for the same product in different states and territories.

Coca-Cola spokesman Alec Wagstaff denied the scheme was a good way of encouraging recycling because he says it was too costly. “In terms of why we don’t support container deposits, it’s quite simple: we don’t think they’re the best way to improve recycling in Australia,” he said.

But statistics seem to contradict these self-serving sentiments. A deposit program can increase recycling of plastics by 30 percent, and in some areas can lead to a 98 percent bottle recycling rate, argues corporate watchdog SumofUs.org. The organization rallied over 100,000 people from 150 countries to sign a petition demanding Coca-Cola end its opposition to the program. The government says 35.5 million containers have so far been recycled under the initiative, according to The Australian.

Even the argument that a company is right to challenge any regulation that might diminish its profits is weak at best. According to Greenpeace, the unredeemed deposits and sale of glass, PET and other materials cover recycling costs so the system breaks even.

Following the decision, Northern Territory Chief Minister, Terry Mills, said the fight was not over and that they would ask the beverage industry to voluntarily continue the container deposit scheme.

Beth Buczynski is a freelancer writer and editor currently living in the Rocky Mountain West. Her articles appear on Care2, Ecosalon and Inhabitat, just to name a few. So far, Beth has lived in or near three major U.S. mountain ranges, and is passionate about protecting the important ecosystems they represent. Follow Beth on Twitter as @ecosphericblog