Soda Companies Use 4.9 Billion Imported Scrap Aluminum Cans To Inflate Soft Drink Container Recycling Rate

News Release

 

Soda Companies Use 4.9 Billion Imported Scrap Aluminum Cans To Inflate Soft Drink Container Recycling Rate

ARLINGTON, VA (November 23, 1998) -- The Container Recycling Institute (CRI) today called the newly released soft drink container recycling figures "bogus", because they include 4.9 billion aluminum 'used beverage cans' (UBC's) imported last year from Canada, Mexico and many other countries. The cans were sold abroad and brought into the U.S. as empty, scrap cans to be recycled into new cans.

Pat Franklin, Executive Director of CRI explained that the 4.9 billion aluminum cans represent the soft drink portion of the total 7.4 billion scrap aluminum beverage cans imported in 1997. "The soft drink industry, again this year, counted the imported scrap cans (UBC's) in the number of containers recycled, but not in the number of containers sold, thus inflating the recycling rate" said Franklin.

The research and education organization located in Arlington, Virginia has called on The Coca-Cola-Cola Company, Pepsi Cola and their trade association, The National Soft Drink Association (NSDA), to readjust their recycling numbers to reflect the imported used aluminum cans. "It does not serve the recycling industry well, or the general public, to have inaccurate recycling numbers reported," said Franklin.

NSDA announced on November 12th that a record number of soda containers (51.9 billion) were recycled last year and that the recycling rate increased from 57.6 percent to 58.7 percent. But, according to CRI, the total number of soft containers recycled in 1997 was 47 billion, not 51.9 billion, and the soft drink container recycling rate remained exactly the same as in 1996 - 53.2 percent.

"The issue we want to raise," said Franklin, "is the continued manipulation of figures by an industry that purports to be a 'friend' of the environment and of recycling." She said that the

trade association representing Coke and Pepsi boasts that "as another part of its commitment to recycling and the environment, NSDA is serving as a second-year sponsor of America Recycles Day (ARD)."

Franklin pointed out that the soft drink industry misrepresented their recycling numbers last year by including imported UBC's and by using one method of calculating the plastic bottle recycling rate for 1995 another method of calculating the plastic bottle recycling rate for 1996. "Friends don't misrepresent facts and distort figures," said Franklin.

"Perhaps the greatest irony is the NSDA's opposition to proposed and existing bottle bills, which require deposits on soft drink and other beverage containers," said Franklin. She noted that NSDA president William L. Ball, III credits comprehensive curbside recycling programs for the high soft drink container recycling rate. "But," said Franklin, " based on data in the "U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's 'Characterization of Municipal Solid Waste: 1997 UPDATE' soft drink and beer containers are recycled at an average rate of 78 percent by weight in states where they have a deposit value, and only 26 percent in the other 40 states.

"In other words," said Franklin, "3 out of 4 beer and soda containers are recycled in bottle bill states and 1 out of 4 beer and soda containers are recycled in non-bottle bill states. The relatively high levels of soft drink and beer container recycling compared to other containers, is due to the high rates of recovery in the ten bottle bill states not curbside recycling programs."

CRI has called on NSDA to be up front with the public about their soft drink container recycling calculations. "If they are a true friend of recycling, let them come forward with the true soft drink container recycling numbers and recycling rate."

The Container Recycling Institute is a nonprofit, research and public education organization studying container and packaging issues. CRI has tracked beverage container recycling rates and trends annually since 1991.
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NOTE: Data available in table format

Soft Drink Container Recycling in the US
1996-1997
(in billions of units)
Container Type
Total Units
Shipped*
(a)




 

Total Units
Recycled*
(b)




 

Recycling
Rate
(includes
imported
scrap cans)
(b)
(a)

 

Total Units
Recycled
(excludes
imported
scrap cans)
(c)

Recycling
Rate
(excludes
imported
scrap cans)
(c)
(a)
1996 1997 1996 1997 1996 1997 1996 1997 1996 1997
Aluminum Cans 64.3 66.1 40.8 44.0 63.5 66.5 37.1 39.1 57.7 59.1
Glass Bottles 1.0 1.0 0.4 0.3 36.0 35.0 0.4 0.3
PET Bottles 18.7 21.3 7.2 7.6 38.6 35.8 7.2 7.6
Total 84.0 88.4 48.4 51.9 57.6 58.7 44.7 47.0 53.2 53.2

* Source: National Soft Drink Association (NOTE: CRI does not agree with the estimated number of soft drink containers shipped or recycled, but has used these numbers to avoid confusion.)

** Source: Aluminum: Aluminum Association; Glass: Glass Packaging Institute; PET soda: American Plastics Council

*** These numbers were calculated by CRI based on data from the US Geological Survey, Bureau of the Census 1997 & 1998. According to the Census Bureau, the number of used scrap aluminum beverage cans imported for recycling in the US was 5.745 billion in 1996 and 7.393 billion in 1997. According to NSDA 64.3 billion soft drink cans were shipped in 1996 or 65% of the 99 billion aluminum cans shipped; and 66.1 billion were shipped in 1997 or 66% of the 100.5 billion cans shipped in 1997. Thus, 65% of the 5.745 billion imported scrap cans, or 3.73 billion cans, should be deducted from aluminum soft drink cans recycled in 1996; and 66% of the 7.393 billion imported scrap cans, or 4.88 billion cans should be deducted from aluminum soft drink cans recycled in 1997.

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