If we want to achieve the kind of environmental gains major brands have been talking about for plastic bottles — like Coca-Cola Co.'s plans for 50 percent recycled content in its plastic containers by 2030 — the United States will need a herculean effort to more than double its recycling rate for PET bottles.
And that could be a reality check for the public amid all the talk about how to make plastics more sustainable.
That analysis of needing to double PET bottle recycling is not mine. It comes from longtime plastics recycling expert David Cornell, who has been making the rounds with the message that the demand for so many more recycled bottles to feed Coke and others will threaten to overwhelm our recycling systems, and lead to much more pressure for national deposit laws.
In talks at conferences and in this podcast from packaging maker Amcor Ltd., Cornell, the former technical director for the Association of Plastic Recyclers, goes through the math and estimates what will need to happen if all the big announcements from Coke, Pepsi and others around using more recycled content become reality.
If you follow recycling policy around plastic bottles and how we can make it better, and I put myself in that small group, it's really worth listening to, and I want to use my blog here to dive in.