Beverage companies aim to get bottles recycled, not trashed

Every year, an estimated 100 billion plastic bottles are produced in the U.S., the bulk of which come from three of America’s biggest beverage companies: Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Keurig Dr Pepper.

The problem? Only one-third of those bottles get recycled; the rest end up in the trash.

That bleak trend has persisted for more than a decade because of spotty collection, outdated processing facilities and other issues, according to the American Beverage Association.

Now, Coca-Cola Co., PepsiCo and Keurig Dr Pepper are trying to change that by investing $100 million to improve recycling collection and processing. They also plan to come out with new packaging next year reminding consumers to recycle.

The American Beverage Association is coordinating the investment, which will be distributed through The Recycling Partnership, a Virginia-based nonprofit that works with local governments to improve recycling rates, and Closed Loop Partners, a New York firm that invests in recycling facilities and new research. The World Wildlife Fund will track the companies’ progress.

Both The Recycling Partnership and Closed Loop Partners say the scale of the investment is unprecedented — and sorely needed. U.S. recycling is a hodge-podge, with 20,000 local governments deciding how best to provide the service. Only 53% of U.S. households have curbside recycling. Six percent have no recycling options at all.

China’s decision last year to cut back drastically on the recycling it accepts from the U.S. also put a spotlight on the problem.

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