Coke reports progress in Reimagine project

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ATLANTA (Nov. 17, 1 p.m. ET) — A Coca-Cola initiative designed to boost on-the-go beverage container recycling collected more than 2.3 million containers — 60 percent of them PET bottles — at just three sites in the Dallas-Fort Worth area with the first year of the program nearing completion.

Coca-Cola Recycling LLC also said Nov. 15 that a fourth Reimagine Beverage Container recycling center has begun operations in Irving, and that a fifth will start up in Little Elm next month. The other recycling centers are in Plano and Garland and started up in February and April, respectively.

All the catchy-looking Reimagine units are at shopping centers anchored by supermarket chain, Kroger Co., a partner with Coca-Cola Recycling, in the recycling initiative. Coca-Cola Recycling is a wholly owned subsidiary of Coca-Cola Enterprises in Atlanta.

“We have expansion plans for the DFW metro area and a broader plan to launch in other states, ... but we are not in a position to discuss where and when expansion will occur beyond the Dallas–Fort Worth Metroplex,” said a Coca-Cola spokesperson.

More than half of the 2.3 million containers collected so far were collected at a shopping center in Arlington where Coca-Cola Recycling placed the first self-contained Reimagine recycling center—which is about the the size of a delivery truck—last Nov. 30.

Unlike most on-the-go-recycling containers, Reimagine will accept bottles and cans in bulk, not just one-by-one. Consumers dump the cans and bottles into a special bin, where they are conveyed, scanned, sorted and then crushed and stored on-site.

Each Reimagine unit can handle up to 200 uncrushed bottles and cans a minute.

“We know that people want to recycle,” said Alain Robichaud, president of Coca-Cola Recycling in a statement. “But when recycling is inconvenient for consumers, too many used beverage containers end up as waste. The outstanding results we have seen from Reimagine prove that we can raise recycling rates when we make it easy, accessible, rewarding and fun.”

As part of the program, a built-in optical scanner calculates the number of cans and bottles and gives consumers reward points that they can donate to local schools, use to enter sweepstakes contests, or keep and use for free or discounted products from local merchants

The Reimagine centers, developed in partnership with Environmental Products Corp. of Naugatuck, Conn., sort, verify, separate and crush used the recycled PET and aluminum containers.

Coke estimates that nearly 100,000 pounds of aluminum and plastic have been diverted from landfill so far through the initiative.

Since 2008, Coke also has helped put in place than 150,000 recycling bins at events, in public spaces and at curbside. Some of those bins have been put in place through a Bin Grant program, and others are bins that are part of $1 million recycling initiative that Coke began with the National Park Service two years ago.

That initiative includes more than 300 recycling bins along the National Mall in Washington and more than 400 recycling bins for use by NPS at special events on the Mall, such as the July 4th fireworks and concert.

Those efforts not withstanding, according to a story Nov. 9 in the New York Times, Coca-Cola was the impetus behind a decision by the NPS late last year to indefinitely postpone a plan to stop selling bottled water at Grand Canyon National Park.

According to the New York Times, the ban was pulled back after Coca-Cola—which sells water under the Dasani brand—expressed its concerns about the ban to the president of the National Park Foundation. Atlanta-based Coke has donated $13 million to the foundation, according to the New York Times.

When Plastics News asked Coca-Cola about the situation at the Grand Canyon, a spokesman asked for specific questions in an email. But Coca-Cola has not responded to date to the seven questions about the situation at the Grand Canyon that PN sent.