Building a Circular Economy Requires Bold Action From Industry, Environmental Groups, and U.S. Policymakers
When our three organizations formed a new partnership in 2019, we set out with a common goal in mind: advance solutions that will help build a circular economy for plastic bottles. The non-alcoholic beverage industry led by American Beverage pledged to reduce its plastic footprint, and The Recycling Partnership and Closed Loop Partners leveraged their experience working with communities to modernize recycling infrastructure and solve the circularity challenges of today.
Our collective efforts are working. Hundreds of thousands of pounds of additional plastic are now being collected at several of the recycling systems in which we invested – keeping it out of nature and putting it back into the supply chain to be reused, as intended.
While our goal was clear cut, the steps required to achieve real results required collaboration across a variety of public, private and local stakeholders. That’s why we launched Every Bottle Back, a comprehensive initiative that joins the beverage industry and environmental groups with local leaders, consumers and private companies to increase the collection of recyclable plastic bottles so they can be remade into new bottles.
Today, 40% of Americans lack equitable access to recycling, a challenge we are seeking to tackle, alongside the challenge of limited consumer awareness around the recyclability of products. What we found is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to addressing our country’s recycling infrastructure challenges, and that’s why Every Bottle Back is working on a local level to improve recycling rates and access in communities across the country.
To date, Every Bottle Back has committed funding to support 15 initial recycling projects to optimize recycling access, education and infrastructure. These include 11 community projects that were launched in 2020 and 2021. These investments are helping more than 300,000 households recycle nearly 693 million more pounds of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic.
Finally, we wanted a clear and transparent way to measure progress. Working with the World Wildlife Fund’s ReSource:Plastic initiative, we’re able to gauge the effectiveness of our activities and showcase solutions that can serve as a roadmap for others.
We recognize the stark reality that, without recycling infrastructure upgrades in communities across the country, the opportunity to build on these efforts remain limited.
That is why, in keeping with the goals of America Recycles Week, we applaud the recent efforts by Congress to make much-needed investments for a greener future. Provisions included in the recently passed bipartisan infrastructure package include critical funding for recycling system improvements nationwide. These grants allow local municipalities to invest in systems in a way that will spur public-private partnerships that grow the economy, create new jobs and help ensure materials like recyclable plastic bottles are remade into new products instead of ending up in nature or landfills.
It’s clear that success relies on collaboration among non-profits, industry leaders and elected officials. We hope our efforts through Every Bottle Back serve as a powerful example of the value of public-private collaboration in building a circular economy and protecting the environment for generations to come.
Katherine Lugar is the president and CEO of American Beverage.
Keefe Harrison is the founder and CEO of The Recycling Partnership.
Ron Gonen is the founder and CEO of Closed Loop Partners.