A bottle recycling advocacy group is raising questions about an initiative from the soft drink and beverage industries, saying that it lacks concrete recommendations for boosting recycling and ducks the question of who will pay for new initiatives.
The Container Recycling Institute, a frequent sparring partner with the beverage industry over recycling policy, said it was disappointed that the industry-led Beverage Packaging Environmental Council has not put forward detailed recommendations for raising bottle recycling. BPEC has been working for about two years, and released an update on its activities earlier this month.
CRI said BPEC, whose membership includes Coca-Cola Co., PepsiCo and major beer and bottled-water companies, has been suggesting in public presentations at conferences and in other materials that attention should be focused on boosting curbside and workplace programs. Those presentations largely rehash what others have said about curbside, CRI said.
``I think people thought there would be something more to discuss at this point,'' said Jenny Gitlitz, research director for Washington-based CRI. CRI said BPEC should endorse specific goals and time lines for increasing recycling.
But a BPEC official said the group's work continues, and said its research thus far, particularly work that has found that about 70 percent of containers are consumed at home, is important to helping it set goals.
``If someone is making the judgment that we've released this data, and we're done, that would be a mistake,'' said Scott Vitters, chairman of BPEC and a senior environmental manager at Coke.
Vitters said BPEC plans to work with other groups on overall strategy, but he declined to offer details on that, when any conclusions might be reached, or whether BPEC ultimately will endorse specific recycling targets.
He said there are still data gaps on issues like how curbside recycling is functioning, for example, and BPEC has said that past discussions on recycling have been marred by distrust between different groups.
CRI decided to make public its critique of BPEC because recycling policy makers have been paying close attention to the group, given that BPEC is made up of the dominant beverage makers in the country, according to CRI.
State and federal policymakers in particular have been waiting for BPEC to come out with conclusions and recommendations, Gitlitz said.
BPEC was formed after the Washington-based National Recycling Coalition in December 2002 adopted a policy statement that said recycling rates had been falling for five years and that the private sector had not devised ``effective nationwide strategies'' to reverse the decline.
NRC at the time called for government, industry and others to begin implementing strategies within three years to ``substantially increase recycling rates.''
CRI also said NRC and BPEC should provide more detailed information about any financial relationship between BPEC and NRC. NRC Executive Director Kate Krebs acts as a facilitator for BPEC discussions, and Coca-Cola was one of several platinum sponsors of NRC's 2005 Congress, held annually.
Krebs said BPEC approached NRC looking for expertise on recycling and help in facilitating its talks. She said NRC's board of directors is comfortable with the relationship with BPEC.
``I think BPEC is showing leadership, and I have a hope that other industry sectors and other consumer product companies will step forward,'' she said.
CRI also said that BPEC should release the data on beverage point of consumption it used in making its preliminary conclusions, so that others can analyze it. But BPEC said it does not want to release that data because it could reveal proprietary information of its member companies.