Beyond Earth Day

My work with Ohio’s non-alcoholic beverage industry takes me to some interesting places. I love touring our production facilities (yep, seeing soda made is as fun as it sounds) sampling new beverages, chatting with warehouse managers about their challenges and witnessing our members’ dedication to conserving vital resources.

Every day is Earth Day in an industry working to reduce plastic waste, cut our carbon footprint and keep the places we live and work litter-free. But what does this really mean for efforts large and small, global and local?

Collectively, member companies have reduced water use by 14% per unit produced over five years. We pay for every drop of water so there is a “double incentive” to conserve resources. We save a precious resource and we save money. And our G&J Pepsi plant in Franklin Furnace, Ohio designed and piloted a water conservation plan that was adopted systemwide by PepsiCo—talk about local work leading to national practice.

Nationwide, our industry has voluntarily phased out HFCs equal to taking 15 million cars off the road. Most vending machines now cool your favorite beverages the “green way”. Our customers also love saving on their monthly electric bills with coolers that sip energy.

As I walk through production facilities from Twinsburg to Cincinnati, I see results from an industry average of 93% waste diversion from landfills. Everything from shrink wrap to strapping is recycled and members all want to get to zero waste.

And what about our packaging? Let’s start with the good news—we have slashed 100s of millions of pounds of raw materials through “lightweighting” and packaging reduction. And everything is 100 percent recyclable, including caps. Innovation abounds with ideas like Coca Cola’s PlantBottle which has saved 315,000 metric tons of CO2 annually.

So, what about recycling those containers? The good news is all member companies have made huge investments in recycling efforts around the country. From Keurig Dr Pepper’s community recycling bin donations (5,200 donated and counting) to millions invested by Coke, Pepsi and Dr Pepper to encourage more recycling at all levels, we are committed to getting more of our containers recycled.

Collectively, members are working with The Recycling Partnership. This group is leveraging private sector investments and expertise to repair a recycling system that is challenged and in need of serious improvement. Many dynamics weave into what makes recycling viable (or not).

There is too much to describe here, but please check out “All the ways recycling is broken—and how to fix them.” It’s a sobering read about recycling infrastructure, processes and packaging design.

I know that Earth Day is a day to pause and reflect on problems and progress. And I also know that our members likely didn’t pause—they work everyday to lead on real solutions to complex environmental challenges.

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