Monday, December 29th, 2008

Beverage Bottles: Recycling Progress, Reuse Innovations

As You Sow, an organization dedicated to ensuring that corporations act in the best interests of “the environment and the human condition” recently came out with its second Beverage Container Recycling Scorecard and Report. The report evaluates efforts by beverage producers to reduce materials use; increase recycled content in containers; raise recycling rates; support policy initiatives to increase recycling rates and disclose these activities to stakeholders.

Based on a survey sent to 23 beverage companies, the report notes “some impressive progress” but states that “most beverage companies continue to fail basic criteria for dealing with the environmental implications of their packaging.” Ouch.

Among the findings were that Coca-Cola Co. leads its industry peers in “commitments and performance on beverage container source reduction, company-wide recovery goals, and investments in recycling programs.” Coke’s goal is to recover 50 percent of its bottles and cans by 2015. In addition, the report praises Nestlé Waters North America for showing the greatest improvement since publication of the first report (2006), noting that the company now produces “the lightest weight bottle in the industry” and has set an industry-wide goal of recycling 60 percent of PET bottles by 2018.

What do you think of this report?

In addition to recycling, reuse is another key component of the sustainability solution. The reuse of plastic beverage bottles recently won four industrial design students from Appalachian State University a $5,000 scholarship and an expense-paid trip to Google headquarters in California in the Juicy Ideas Competition. The winning team created a working bicycle that was fabricated from green plastic Mountain Dew and Sprite bottles. Watch this video of the winning bottle bike:

Organized by AdvantageWest Economic Development Group as a way to encourage entrepreneurship and environmental responsibility, the competition asked “What can you squeeze from a throwaway item?” The bike narrowly defeated a wind generator made with plastic bottles by students from Western Carolina University, wall insulation using plastic bottles developed by Western Piedmont Community College students, and storm covers for windows using plastic bags developed by a team from Rogers State University.

Have an opinion on the commercial viability of any of these student innovations?

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