While CPG companies have increasingly been focusing on improving the recyclability of their packaging, that alone is not enough to move the needle and boost recycling rates in the US. Strong cross-sector partnerships between private companies, industry organizations and associations, nonprofit groups, NGOs and other groups committed to sustainability may be necessary in order to ultimately close the so-called “recycling gap.” One such group, national nonprofit The Recycling Partnership, has recently signed a new funding partner, PepsiCo, to collaborate on a cross-sector approach to increasing recycling rates across America.
The nonprofit has assisted more than 400 local communities to improve curbside recycling for 17 million households. This work has resulted in the recovery of 115 million pounds of material, and savings of 382 million gallons of water and 164,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases, the nonprofit says. Now, PepsiCo – which itself is striving toward having 100% of its packaging be recoverable or recyclable by 2025 – is investing to help expand The Partnership’s reach to improve recycling through local and national work.
Currently, less than half of recyclables in US homes are getting captured; just 22 million tons out of an available 46 million tons every year, according to The Partnership. The so-called recycling gap refers to the fact that, while 75% of the waste stream in the US is recyclable, just 30% actually gets recycled.
The Recycling Partnership says it offers companies and organizations “a vehicle to make a meaningful impact on recycling,” providing the opportunity for corporate brands to be “linked to recycling” as well as to “make real progress towards improving recycling across the country.”
Coca-Cola is another beverage giant focused on recycling in terms of both its own packaging and in terms of closing the recycling gap in general. Coca-Cola Great Britain, for example, announced a new sustainable packaging strategy that calls for increasing the recycled plastic content in its bottles from 25% to 50% by 2020 – but the company has also widened its strategy to include “championing new ways to improve recovery and recycling.” This includes working with WWF to assess the environmental and social performance of plant-based materials for potential use in its renewable packaging. Like PepsiCo, Coca-Cola supports The Recycling Partnership.
Other beverage companies that support the nonprofit include Anheuser-Busch, Heineken and Keurig Green Mountain.