Research Group Bursts Soft Drink Industry's Bubble, Soft Drink Container Recycling Rate Drops Again

News Release

Container Recycling Institute
1911 Ft. Myer Drive, Suite 900
Arlington, Virginia 22209
703/276-9800 fa 276-9587

Contact: Pat Franklin

For Immediate Release

July 16, 1997

Research Group Bursts Soft Drink Industry's Bubble, Soft Drink Container Recycling Rate Drops Again

WASHINGTON, DC (July 16, 1997) -- The Container Recycling Institute (CRI) today accused the soft drink industry of distorting the soda container recycling numbers released yesterday by their trade association. "We hate to burst the soft drink industry's bubble," said Pat Franklin, Executive Director of CRI, "but the numbers they released yesterday are flat out wrong."

In a press release issued yesterday, the National Soft Drink Association (NSDA) claimed that a record number of soda containers were recycled last year. But, according to CRI, the number of soda containers recycled in 1996 was exactly the same as 1995 -- 48.4 containers -- and the recycling rate for soda cans and bottles actually decreased.

"Whether the discrepancy was a manipulation of the numbers or simply an oversight, NSDA should issue an immediate retraction," said Franklin. "The public should know that soft drink container recycling is declining, and that the recycling rate has dropped for the third year in a row." Franklin attributes the drop in soft drink container recycling to the drop in PET soda bottle recycling, which fell more than 17 percent last year. "Because 1 out of 5 soft drink containers is a PET bottle, even a small discrepancy in the PET numbers skews the entire calculation," she said.

Franklin explained that the American Plastic Council (APC), this year, changed the way they calculate the recycling rate for PET bottles. They now use the number of pounds of bottles collected, whereas in the past they used the number of pounds of bottles processed. The new method was adopted by APC, because it is the method used by other industries.

"Using the old method for 1995 made it look like there was an increase in PET soda bottle recycling, when actually there was a decrease," said Franklin. "When you are measuring trends," she said, "you have to be consistent in your method of calculation, otherwise you end up comparing apples and oranges." Using the same method for both years, the number of soda containers recycled in 1995 was 48.4 billion soda containers--exactly the number recycled in 1996, and the recycling rate declined from 58.5 percent to 57.6 percent.

NSDA credits comprehensive recycling programs for the high soft drink container recycling rate. But, based on data in the same U.S. Environmental Protection Agency study referenced by NSDA, CRI estimates that soft drink and beer containers are recycled at an average rate of 78 percent in states where they have a deposit value, and only 26 percent in the other 40 states. "The credit for the relatively high levels of soft drink and beer container recycling is due to the high rates of recovery in the ten bottle bill states," said Franklin, "not curbside recycling programs."

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Soft Drink Containers

1995 - 96 Recycling Figures

Total Units Shipped
(Billion Units)


1995 1995 1996
Aluminum Cans 64.6 64.6 64.3
Glass Bottles 2.2 2.2 1.0
PET Bottles 16.0 16.0 18.7
Total 82.8 82.8 84.0

Total Units Shipped
(Billion Units)


1995* 1995** 1996
Aluminum Cans 40.2 40.2 40.8
Glass Bottles 0.8 0.8 0.4
PET Bottles 6.6 (old method) 7.4 (new method) 7.2
Total 47.5 48.4 48.4

Post Consumer Recycling Rate


1995* 1995** 1996
Aluminum Cans 62.2 62.2 63.5
Glass Bottles 35.0 35.0 36.0
PET Bottles 41.0 (old method) 46.0 (new method) 36.0
Total 57.4 58.5 57.6