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Consortium targets Capri Sun in new push to emphasize recycling

By: Jim Johnson

April 30, 2014

A new campaign by a clutch of environmental groups designed to pressure consumer products companies into taking more responsibility for packaging waste is aiming high and not mincing words.

The new Make It, Take It campaign is trying to shine a spotlight on Capri Sun drink pouches and brand owner Kraft Foods Inc. for what the campaign’s backers consider an abysmal environmental footprint.

“We started with Capri Sun because it’s really an iconic example of a package that’s completely unrecyclable,” said Matt Prindiville, associate director for Upstream. “It’s made up of bonding several layers of polymers to aluminum. You really can’t do anything with it.”

Upstream, which changed its name from the Product Policy Institute last year, is taking a leadership role in the campaign.

Make It, Take It claims 1.4 billion Capri Sun pouches become trash every year in the United States and only 1 to 3 percent of the pouches are collected. “That’s really not a recycling program,” Prindiville alleged.

Make It, Take It launched April 30 and brings together some well-known environmental groups, including 5 Gyres, Clean Water Action, Natural Resources Defense Council, Water Keeper Alliance and Sierra Club.

Other members of the Make It, Take It campaign are Eureka Recycling, Green America and Plastic Pollution Coalition.

The campaign wants to pressure companies into packaging design changes and have them support the idea of extended producer responsibility.  The effort also wants to “engage the American people broadly on packaging issues” in an effort to show them the topic is worth their time and attention.

Make It, Take used words such as wasteful, polluting and irresponsible in describing Capri Sun packaging.

A call to Kraft Food’s media relations department seeking comment was not returned.

Capri Sun, for years now, has partnered with TerraCycle Inc. of Trenton, N.J., to recycle Capri Sun pouches. Those pouches are collected around the country and shipped in bulk to TerraCycle. The recycler then makes consumer products such as bags, backpacks and wallets by sewing the pouches together. The pouches also are recycled into products such as benches and garbage cans, according to TerraCycle’s website.

While Pridiville gave kudos to TerraCycle for creating the program and teaching children about recycling, he said more has to be done.

“Having a program through schools is not going to be able to recover all of these. I think that program at its best is only going to get a small percentage. We need companies to design the packaging so that it can be recycled through curbside recycling programs.”

TerraCycle finds itself in the interesting position of working with large consumer products companies as well as environmental groups.

“We support what Make It, Take It is trying to do. And we work with many of these same organizations,” said Albe Zakes, spokesman for TerraCycle. “We 100 percent support what they’re trying to do.

“At the same time, Capri Sun is a very convenient choice. Capri Sun is doing more than any other food and beverage company on the planet to make their packaging more widely recyclable,” he said. “It’s not just Capri Sun that packages in pouches. Everything is in pouches these days. The pouch has become a very ubiquitous waste stream.

While Capri Sun only captures a small percentage of its packaging, the company is trying to make a difference, Zakes said.

“They are spending millions of dollars a year to sponsor the TerraCycle program. So they are taking quite seriously the collection and recycling of their packaging. They have collected 250 million as the program has grown and we’ll collect at least 100 million this year alone,” Zakes said.

While Capri Sun is the first target of Make It, Take It, it certainly won’t be the last, Prindiville said.

He promised that other high profile companies and products will become a focus of the campaign in the months ahead.

“The big reason why we’re doing this is because companies oftentimes design packaging without thinking about what’s going to happen to it when consumers are finished with it,” he said.

“We’re only recycling about not even half of the packaging materials that are put into the marketplace. So theres tremendous amounts of material that are getting wasted every single year.”

Capri Sun packaging is “designed for the dump,” Prindiville alleged. The drink could be packaged in recyclable plastic or glass bottles or cans, the campaign said.

But Zakes said there is more to consider than just packaging when determining a product’s environmental footprint. He questioned whether it would be a good idea to have 1.4 billion glass bottles of Capri Sun shipped and handled in the market each year.