Daily Herald | November 26, 2019
Rob Nash

According to the Rochester Institute of Technology, more than 22 million pounds of plastic end up on the shores of the Great Lakes. Our lakes are precious resources that we rely on daily — so it’s understandable when Illinoisans become frustrated when they see plastic bottles in nature. Illinois beverage makers share in that frustration.

Last month, the American Beverage Association brought together an unprecedented coalition with the shared goal of preventing bottles from ending up in places they do not belong. Together, The Coca-Cola Company, PepsiCo, Keurig, Dr Pepper, joined by the preeminent environmental and sustainability leaders World Wildlife Fund, The Recycling Partnership and Closed Loop Partners to launch the Every Bottle Back initiative.

The goal of Every Bottle Back is simple: decrease the use of new plastic by increasing the collection of plastic bottles so they can be remade into new bottles. This will reduce our reliance on new plastic and ensure our bottles don’t wind up in places they shouldn’t like lakes and rivers or wasted in a landfill.

We will work toward this goal by improving community recycling infrastructure and access, measuring and tracking our progress in using less new plastic and increasing consumer awareness surrounding our recyclable plastic bottles.

What many people don’t know is that beverage makers across the country, including right here in Illinois, are already designing 100% recyclable bottles and caps. They are intentionally made to be remade and are not single use.

To meet our industry’s ambitious goal of using less new plastic to bring beverages to market, we are stepping up our efforts to collect more plastic bottles.

Under Every Bottle Back, we are doubling down on the beverage industry’s long-standing commitments to sustainability and directing the equivalent of $400 million to The Recycling Partnership and Closed Loop Partners. These investments will go toward strengthening community recycling infrastructure by modernizing technology to collect and sort recyclable plastic bottles and providing greater access to recycling in single and multifamily homes.

Consumers also need to know that their efforts to recycle make a difference. That’s why our partners will work neighborhood by neighborhood to help consumers recycle better and provide tools and resources to make it easier.

As part of the initiative’s efforts to educate consumers, The Coca-Cola Company, PepsiCo and Keurig Dr Pepper will do their part and place a uniform message on their beverage packages to inform consumers that their plastic bottles are 100% recyclable and encourage them to recycle. Consumers across the state will begin to see this message on their beverage containers beginning in 2020.

Ultimately for this initiative to have an impact, it must demonstrate measurable results to reduce plastic in the environment. That’s why Every Bottle Back is grounded by the World Wildlife Fund’s Resource: Plastic program, which works with businesses to measure and maximize their efforts to reduce their plastic footprint. The Resource: Plastic program will ensure the Every Bottle Back is making a real difference.

The Illinois Beverage Association is eager to work alongside America’s leading beverage companies and its key environmental and sustainability partners to keep our bottles out of the environment and help preserve it for generations to come. The Every Bottle Back initiative is a first step to reduce our industry’s overall use of plastic and we hope it will serve as a catalyst for others to do more.

Rob Nash is executive director of the Illinois Beverage Association.