The Ohio Beverage Association Wants Every PET Bottle Back – So Do We

If anyone has the inside scoop on PET bottles in Ohio, it’s Kimberly McConville. Since 2003, she’s served as the executive director of the Ohio Beverage Association. As such, Kimberly knows where the post-consumer PET bottles lie.

With Evergreen’s Clyde PET recycling plant doubling its manufacturing capacity of food-grade rPET in 2022, Kimberly is exactly the person we need to know. In 2020, Evergreen collected and recycled more than one billion post-consumer PET bottle to make 40 million pounds of recycled PET (rPET). Doubling our capacity of rPET also means we need to double the number of post-consumer PET bottles.

Can anyone say 2 billion? That’s a bunch of bottles!

No worries. Among the top three priorities of the Ohio Beverage Association is making sure every post-consumer PET beverage bottle in Ohio is collected and recycled into new bottles. Fortunately, Kimberly has three powerful members behind the bottle-to-bottle initiative: the Coca-Cola Bottling Company, PepsiCo and Keurig Dr Pepper.

Every Bottle Back is an integrated and comprehensive initiative by The Coca-Cola Company, Keurig Dr Pepper, and PepsiCo to reduce the industry’s use of new plastic by making investments that improve the collection of plastic bottles so they can be remade into new ones.

This national effort includes leading environmental and sustainability organizations—World Wildlife Fund, Closed Loop Partners and The Recycling Partnership—to reduce the beverage industry’s plastic footprint.

Kimberly admits it’s pretty amazing when the big three work on big picture problems together. With consumers demanding more recycled content in their packaging, there’s plenty of incentive for collaboration.

“Consumers today are very aware of recycled content in packaging. Sure, they want a tasty product but they also want to feel good about the product and don’t want a wasteful package. Adding recycled content makes consumers feel like they’re doing their part for the environment. So leading beverage companies like Coke, Pepsi, and Keurig Dr Pepper are really stepping up to the plate.”

Consumers today are very aware
of recycled content in packaging.

Last winter and into the spring, the big three teamed up with the American Beverage Association on a mass media blitz called “Back to One” to educate consumers on closed loop recycling. It seemed everywhere you looked—traditional TV, streaming platforms and social media—there were Coke, Pepsi and Keurig Dr Pepper in the same ads and posts appearing together to increase recycling of PET beverage bottles.  It was, says Kimberly, very powerful. See for yourself here>

Meanwhile, the beverage industry and its partners in the Every Bottle Back initiative have implemented two very important tactics to increase PET recycling among Ohioans. The first is focused on public awareness, the second on placing more recycling bins with families across Central Ohio.

“A lot of money and effort are going into consumer education, letting people know what is recyclable and what is not,” Kimberly explains. “Too many things go into recycling bins that shouldn’t. Things like bowling balls.”

Bowling balls?

“Yes, bowling balls,” laughs Kimberly. “You wouldn’t believe how many get placed in recycling bins and our friends in the recycling industry have a great challenge removing them from sorting lines.”

Maybe they should start a league?

Other no-nos that recyclers flag are placing plastic bags and garden hoses in recycling bins. “People want to do the right thing and the Every Bottle Back initiative helps fund consumer education on what can and cannot be recycled,” she says.

The other key tactic—and one that’s working very well—is providing lidded recycling carts to Ohioans. Last December, Central Ohio communities of Whitehall and Pleasant Township were awarded funding through Every Bottle Back. This first Ohio project provided lidded, 64-gallon recycling carts to 7,300 households. The expansion of curbside recycling in just two communities is expected to capture 15.1 million additional pounds of recyclables over a ten-year span.

“People understand the importance of recycling, but it’s not always easy for them,” says Kimberly. “By providing the lidded carts, recycling becomes more accessible which boosts participation and dramatically increases the volume of PET bottles redirected from landfills to recycling.”

In May, Kimberly joined Evergreen at our groundbreaking ceremony to celebrate the expansion of the plant’s PET recycling and food-grade RPET manufacturing capacity. The project is important to the Ohio’s beverage industry on many levels.

“We’re here to support Ohio’s beverage industry as partnerships with PET recyclers and manufacturers like Evergreen are critical to our industry, to consumers and the circular economy. Evergreen creates the reality of bottle-to-bottle. If we want to reduce the use of new plastic, we need to support Evergreen by investing in our collection and processing of post-consumer PET bottles.”

Kimberly is optimistic that Evergreen will meet its new goal of collecting two billion post-consumer PET bottles a year. “The more bottles they recycle, the more rPET is generated for our members’ bottles,” she says.

“That’s closing the loop.”

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