Coca-Cola Co. is eliminating the use of green PET in North America, a move designed to help boost bottle-to-bottle recycling.
The Atlanta-based beverage giant will also convert the majority of Dasani water bottles in the United States to 100 percent recycled PET starting this summer.
The use of green PET for beverage containers has long been a topic of discussion within the plastics recycling sector. Recyclers collect and reprocess green PET, but the resin has to be separated from clear PET containers to avoid color contamination. The segregated PET is often used for nonbottle applications such as strapping and carpeting.
Moving to clear PET will free up those containers for bottle-to-bottle efforts as Coca-Cola strives to use at least 50 percent recycled material in the company's bottles and cans by 2030.
"Taking colors out of bottles improves the quality of the recycled material," CEO Julian Ochoa of R3CYCLE Industries in Waxhaw, N.C., said in a statement. The PET recycler works with Coca-Cola Consolidated, the brand's largest bottler with a 14-state territory.
"This transition will help increase availability of food-grade recycled PET. When recycled, clear PET Sprite bottles can be remade into bottles, helping drive a circular economy for plastic."
While Coca-Cola is highlighting the move from green to clear PET for Sprite, the move actually includes transitioning from green PET for all brands in North America using that color. The move includes Fresca, Seagram's and Mello Yello.
"Demand for recycled PET currently exceeds supply, so the first step to scaling up use of 100 percent recycled PET across our portfolio is building a sustainable pipeline of high-quality material," said Chris Vallette, senior vice president of technical innovation and stewardship for Coca-Cola North America, in a statement.
Coca-Cola could not be reached for further comment and additional details regarding the decision, but Steve Alexander, CEO of the Association of Plastic Recyclers trade group, provided his perspective. The move to clear PET bottles, he said in an email exchange, "makes sense if they want more of their containers recycled."
"[It] makes for a more consistent stream with less contamination. Brands are the source of their own recycled feedstock, so changes like this only help to create less contamination and more consistent material for recyclers to create recycled content to help brands meet their sustainability," Alexander said.
"Recyclers can only recycle material that is available to them to recycle and that is designed to be compatible with recycling processes. Consistency of material type only helps the process," he said.
Coca-Cola also indicated a majority of Dasani bottles in the United States — from 20-ounce to 1.5-liter single bottles and 10-ounce and 12-ounce multipacks — will be made from 100 percent recycled plastic. All Dasani bottles in Canada will be in recycled PET. This change does not include caps and labels, the company said.
The company expects to eliminate the use of 20 million pounds of virgin plastic, when compared with 2019 totals, by making the switch. Greenhouse gas emissions will decrease by more than 25,000 metric tons because recycled plastic bottles take less energy to create than their virgin counterparts, Coca-Cola said.