While some PET recyclers have taken a wait-and-see approach to the latest expanded bottle bill to come out of California, at least one has opted to take out extra insurance, in the way of an exclusive contract to secure Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc.'s deposit bottles. For the year 2000, at least, Mohawk Industries Inc. will be allowed to purchase Coca-Cola Enterprise's bottles returned to deposit systems in Michigan and Northeastern bottle-bill states, such as Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York.
Representatives from Coca-Cola Enterprises, Coke's largest wholly owned bottler, were not available for comment.
Mohawk's director of national procurement, Phil Cavin, would not disclose the terms of the one-year contract with Coca-Cola. But he said the purchase of these bottles at least ensures the carpet manufacturer of a steady, clean supply of post-consumer PET bottles.
"Not knowing what was going to happen in California, we were obviously nervous," Cavin said in a telephone interview from his Calhoun, Ga., office. "Naturally we had to assume that we had to buy some insurance."
The California law, signed in October and effective Jan. 1, expands the types of plastic bottles eligible for the deposit program to include a variety of non-PET containers. With the new law in effect, Cavin feared that California bottles will not be properly sorted, creating the likelihood of contamination and eventually raising processing costs for recyclers such as Mohawk.
"To make fiber we don't need that [kind of] quality, but when there's a shortage it forces us to pay a little more for the material," Cavin said. "Any time demand outweighs supply, you get into a bidding war."
Already, some buyers and sellers of post-consumer PET have observed 3-4 cent jumps in the price of PET flake and pellets.
Phoenix Technologies LP, a high-volume PET recycler in Bowling Green, Ohio, was one of the handful of recyclers bidding for the Coca-Cola contract.
Jean Bina, director of commercial operations with Phoenix, said at this point, her company is guardedly concerned about the effect of this legislation on its post-consumer PET supply.
Mark Oldfield, a spokesman for the California Department of Conservation in Sacramento, said the good thing about this expansion is that it increases the number of containers that will be recycled.
"Research that we've done has indicated that beverage containers that carry a deposit are twice as likely to be put back into the system through recycling than those that do not carry a deposit," Oldfield said. "The expansion of the program is going to add 2 billion containers a year — most of them PET plastic.
"The benefit is to keep even more of those 2 billion out of the waste stream than were being kept out before."
According to the Arlington, Va.-based Container Recycling Institute, about 40 percent of soft-drink bottles collected in deposit-law states are Coca-Cola bottles.