A small California county's waste authority is launching a media campaign telling its residents to send Coca-Cola's PET bottles back to the company in an effort to get the soft drink maker to use recycled content in its plastic containers.
The San Luis Obispo County Integrated Waste Management Authority says it does not expect many of the county's 250,000 residents to heed its unusual advice and mail bottles back to Atlanta-based Coke. But the local advertising campaign is designed to convince people to purchase fewer PET bottles and highlight Coke's failure to live up to 1990 commitments to use recycled content in PET bottles, said Bill Worrell, IWMA manager.
``Back in 1990, Coke said they would use recycled PET in bottles,'' he said. ``It's happened in Australia and Europe but not in this country.''
The waste authority, which does not operate recycling programs, pick up garbage or run a landfill, still is responsible for meeting California's goal of diverting 50 percent of the waste that heads to landfills by 2000.
In a response to the county's ad campaign, Coke tried to turn the tables by blaming the county for not recycling the PET bottles.
``It is regrettable that the people of San Luis Obispo are not being asked to recycle their bottles in San Luis Obispo. Recycled PET bottles are made into more than 50 new parts, from automobile parts to clothing and carpets,'' the soft drink giant said in a prepared statement.
E. Gifford Stack, vice president of environmental affairs for the National Soft Drink Association in Washington, said it would be unfair to judge the soft drink industry without looking at its other recycling successes, including the use of recycled content in aluminum and glass containers.
But the San Luis Obispo action echoes statements from the GrassRoots Recycling Network, which attacked Coke and plastics manufacturers in mid-November for ``broken commitments'' to using recycled materials and reducing waste. GRRN's statement was timed to coincide with America Recycles Day on Nov. 15.
``Consumers are being deceived by Coca Cola about the company's commitment to recycling,'' said Bill Sheehan, GRRN steering committee chairman.
GRRN is an umbrella for 50 groups, including Californians Against Waste.
The San Luis Obispo authority's board voted Nov. 12 to start the campaign, but Worrell said he has no way to gauge how many residents are participating. The county targeted Coke because it is the largest soft drink maker but could add other soft drinks later, Worrell said.