Beverages Makers Seek Additional Recycled Plastic

Coke, Pepsi, others urge curb-side recycling, oppose deposit programs in push to get more reusable plastic

Beverage companies with ambitious goals to use more recycled plastic in their packaging are facing a shortage of discarded containers from recycling programs.

Less than a 3rd of the six billion pounds of plastic most frequently used for Beverages containers and food containers is recuperated by U.S. recycling programs. Most of what is recuperated becomes polyester fiber for rugs and clothes or plastic sheeting. Just a fifth, some 330 million pounds, ends up in new containers and food containers.

Big Beverages-and-food Manufacturers will need four or five times that much recycled plastic to meet the targets they have set to satisfy consumer calls to waste less and reuse more, according to the Association of Plastic Recyclers. Coca-Cola Co. wants to use 50 percent recycled plastic by 2030. Nestlé Waters North America, a unit of Nestlé SA, is aiming for 50 percent recycled plastic in its residential brands by 2025. PepsiCo Inc. PEP -0.43% aims to use 25% recycled plastic in all of its containers and packaging by that year. Most of those and other beverage companies use less than 10% recycled plastic in their packaging now.

But the volume of plastic for bottles—technically known as polyethylene terephthalate, or PET—has been stagnant for years.

“We have to increase recycled PET. This is unquestionably one of the biggest challenges in the U.S.,” Simon Lowden, president of Pepsi’s snacks group, said in an interview.

Coke, Pepsi, and other bottled-beverage companies pay hundreds of thousands of dollars yearly to improve curb-side recycling through groups such as the Recycling relationship. In Atlanta—through a grant of $4 million from the Coca-Cola Foundation—the Recycling relationship and city officials this springtime deployed teams of people to city neighborhoods to check recycling bins for contaminants right before collection crews arrive.