In spite of Coca-Cola Co.'s declaration that it will use 10 percent recycled content in some of its PET bottles, pressure on the soft drink company is not letting up. Environmentalists protested outside Coke's annual meeting April 19 in Wilmington, Del., saying the company actually will use less than 5 percent recycled plastic.
And a group of "socially responsible" investment firms plans to meet with Atlanta-based Coke in early May to ask for details and continue to press Coke to stop opposing bottle bills.
In Wilmington, the GrassRoots Recycling Network said letters it has received from Coke officials since its public statements indicate that the company could use as little as 3 percent recycled PET this year.
GRRN Chairman Rick Best said the group believed from Coke's initial statements that it would use 10 percent recycled PET in all its bottles. He said the company gradually should move up to about 25 percent recycled content.
But Coke spokesman Trey Paris said the company has said recently only that it would use 10 percent recycled PET in "several billion bottles." Coke has repeatedly declined to say what percentage of its bottles would have recycled content, but one of its bottlers said it was prepared to put recycled PET in one of every four.
Best said it was "misleading" for Coke not to have qualified its statements by saying what percentage of bottles would use recycled content, and the company still needs to make a clear statement about its plans. GRRN officials met with Coke at the shareholder meeting and were "conveying our frustration about inconsistencies in Coke statements."
Paris said it is "not our responsibility" how Coke statements are interpreted.
He said the company and environmental groups plan more meetings, and have found "areas of common ground" that he declined to identify.
GRRN and other groups set up a 20-foot inflatable Coke bottle across the street from the shareholders meeting. Several members of the coalition addressed the shareholder meeting and a group of students peacefully were removed from the meeting when they started shouting that Coke should live up to a recycled content pledge made a decade ago, GRRN officials said.
Meanwhile, the investment firms, some of which threatened to bring a shareholder resolution last fall, said they want to meet with Coke to get more details on its 10 percent announcement. The investors are not pushing a specific level of recycled content, said Kenneth Scott, research analyst with Walden Asset Management, one of the funds. Walden is part of the United States Trust Co. of Boston.
But they will be pushing Coke on its opposition to bottle bills.
"Our understanding is that the company continues to oppose bottle bills, and some of the measures they have advocated do not seem to have achieved recycling equivalent to those in bottle bill states," Scott said.
"It does seem to be a concern that the company is moving against a system that has assured a high level of beverage container recycling."