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Coke Defeats Recycling Program

Coca-Cola, Schweppes and Lion yesterday won a court battle to defeat a 10-cent bottle refund program run by an Australian state government.

The Northern Territory’s Cash for Containers program, started in January last year, forces companies to refund customers 10 cents for every bottle and can they return for recycling, ABC reports.

The three drinks companies argued that the initiative broke federal law because it required them to use different production processes in different states. The territory said the program was exempt because it aimed to diminish environmental harm, but a federal court judge dismissed this argument.

A Coca-Cola spokesman said container deposits are not the best way to improve recycling, because they are expensive and only address “a small part of the problem.”

The territory’s chief minister, Terry Mills, said his government will seek to continue the initiative by securing an exemption through the Council of Australian Governments, and would also ask drinks companies to continue the program voluntarily.

The government says 35.5 million containers have so far been recycled under the initiative, The Australian reports.

More than 111,000 people from 150 countries around the world signed a petition by corporate watchdog SumOfUs.org, demanding Coca-Cola end its opposition to the program. And yesterday, the company called police to its Sydney headquarters to stop a protest led by Greenpeace Australia Pacific CEO David Ritter and Clean Up Australia chairman Ian Kiernan, Adelaide Now reports.

SumOfUs.org says there is a wealth of evidence that container deposit programs are the single most effective way to get more people to recycle. A deposit program can increase recycling of plastics by 30 percent, and in some areas can lead to a 98 percent bottle recycling rate, the organization argues.

According to Greenpeace, a “modern and efficient” deposit program places no additional cost beyond the deposit on consumers and drink companies. The unredeemed deposits and sale of glass, PET and other materials cover recycling costs so the system breaks even, Greenpeace says.

In 2011, the Coca-Cola Company received a B- grade for its recycling efforts in a report by shareholder advocacy group As You Sow. Coca-Cola has historically opposed container deposit systems administered by independent third parties, and continues to do so, according to the report. But As You Sow said that Coke is “neutral” on a voluntary system of deposits administered by associated industries.

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12 thoughts on “Coke Defeats Recycling Program

  1. Coke continues to prove they are green washers. It is pure ignorance and fear that prompts this type of response to good programs. One would think that since Coke sits on the WWF board, they would be open to any program that works, and recycling works, period!

  2. Coke has defeated recycling programs in Georgia (home state) and across the USA.
    See American State Litter Scorecard site for details!

  3. There is a distinction it might be useful to keep in mind here: deposits work well to increase soft-drink container recycling. However, they do nothing to increase recycling overall – including detergent bottles, newspapers, etc. The most efficient way to recycle (both environmentally and economically) is to collect broad quantities of material at the same time: this enables a critical mass of material, and reduces number of trucks/lorries in residential zones and highways, and environmental impact per container. Soft drink containers are among the highest value materials in the recycling mix, and (depending upon how a system is set up) help pay the way for other materials to be recycled. I do not know Coca-Cola’s thinking on this, but as they have taken a leadership role in most of the recycling programmes I have worked with, I am inclined to believe that they were fighting a poor programme design in order to enable a better programme design. The article does not help us see if that is so – this would be a truly useful addition to the article.

    Perhaps someone from Coca-Cola in Australia could help illuminate this?

  4. ^^Iain they are not opposing recycling, they are opposing the bottle deposit scheme. The same one that has not improved recycling when trailed elsewhere. From what I know Coca-Cola invests heavily in recycling and other environment protection activities. Sorry but on this occasion they can’t be made out to be the big bad guy. They simply believe (as part of the industry) that the scheme is not the answer and would only have a negative on the industry by driving up prices.

  5. This is an utterly disgusting outcome driven by a company that on one hand is advertising it’s environmental credentials by inviting Coca Cola drinkers to help save the polar bear and be more mindful of our environmental impact, while failing to reduce the impact of its own waste stream on the environment and wildlife across our planet. The figures are easily available, showing the detrimental effect that PET bottles and packaging that finds its way into the waste stream can have, and yet Coca Cola refuses to take a tiny step in addressing this massive issue, by making some kind of inroad into improving the recycle rates of these insidious containers. Seriously, how does that stack up in their annual CSR report?
    I grew up in South Australia, which has had a container deposit scheme in place for decades, and which enjoys somewhere around 80% recycling rates on plastic bottles, containers, whereas the rest of Australia and much of the world languishes behind at around the 30% or less mark… these multinationals should not be allowed to get away with it simply based on the fact that it might eat into their already MASSIVE profit margins… when will governments realise that they need to stop caving into big business and start enforcing some terms and conditions that benefit the environment ahead of the hip pockets of a small few…


  6. In response to Caroline’s, I used to work with one of Australia’s oldest and most respected environmental NGOs and we were very active in the container deposit discussion with companies such as Coca Cola and Schweppes, as well as their respective bottling partners… I appreciate that you’d like to give them the benefit of the doubt, but sadly, the only argument that the bottlers ever came up with is that a deposit scheme would add to their costs and reduce their profits and was effectively anti-competitive, arguments which caused government to jump to attention and let them have their way. Never once, in a number of years campaigning for such a scheme did any of the bottlers come up with any other solution for how to increase the proportion of bottles that were recycled. If they have such a superior plan, I for one, would love to hear about it!

  7. If Coke thinks a container deposit scheme represents a solution to only a “small part of the problem”, what are they going to do about the big part of the problem? i.e. plastic litter, manufacturing carbon footprint, transport costs. Come up with a better plan Coke! You are responsible.

  8. now that the soft drink manufacturers have an addicted cohort of consumers, they can run fairly unobstructed with what ever profit enhancing scheme and/or societal degeneration effort they want. It may be too late to boycott Coca Cola, but the reduction in mindless, non-value consumption of junk food could be a remedy for an even greater problem than too much plastic waste.

  9. Multi national companies cannot thwart the will of the people in a true democracy.There is overwhelming support for a bottle/container recycling program in the state, even though people know it will increase the price of the product. A big thanks you to the Casbah Cafe in Hobart (at the other end of the country) which has declared a total boycott of Schweppes and Coca Cola/amitil products, until further notice. Yes, Tasmania wants a bottle recycling scheme too!

  10. Hmm I’d prefer to campaign to discourage drinking softdrinks and bottle water altogether, forget this chipping at the edge of the issue let’s get straight to the core. Coke’s core business is bad for humanity and the planet – the company doing less bad is a moot point, they are still doing bad simply by operating.

  11. Companies must be held responsible for their products: from the extraction of raw materials and energy on to it’s waste. It should be required to take waste back in order to serve as raw material for their product. In a closed loop – cradle to cradle!

    Unfortunately the economic reasons (companies cry like babyies that they must make more costs to do less harm to our planet) still prevail over the nullification of our environment and with our own health. Sad but true… still.. But consumers have an enormous power! Use it, this is the battle we all toghether can win!

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