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Vulcan
August 01, 2018

PepsiCo Announces Recycling Challenge, But Commitment Unlikely to Move the Needle

Funding should come from private, not public sector
PepsiCo Announces Recycling Challenge, But Commitment Unlikely to Move the Needle

Oakland, California—July 31, 2018—PepsiCo Foundation announced this morning that it will provide $10 million in funding to jumpstart the “All In On Recycling” challenge to make it easier for 25 million families across the country to recycle bottles and cans.

The announcement comes eight years after the nonprofit corporate watchdog As You Sow agreed to withdraw a 2010 Pepsi shareholder proposal after the company promised to work with peers to increase the beverage container recycling rate to 50% by 2018. (Coca-Cola and Nestle Waters also made separate recycling commitments. Details here).

However, as we enter the last half of 2018, the recycling rate has not budged and PepsiCo Foundation’s plan announced this morning, while a welcomed move, represents a retreat from its 2010 goal in terms of commitment and impact.

The current recycling rate in the U.S. is around 36%, according to the American Beverage Association, which is around 2% lower than it was in 2010. About 2 billion additional containers must be collected to increase the recycling rate by 1%. If the full $100 million is raised and 7 billion more bottles and cans are collected over five years, the resulting progress still appears to fall far short of the original goal of 50%, which might be why the company stopped communicating publicly about this goal several years ago. Today’s announcement is partly a response to the company’s failure to meet the goal set in 2010.

Senior Vice President of As You Sow, Conrad MacKerron, made the following statement:

“We are pleased that PepsiCo Foundation made a new commitment of $10 million of seed funding toward a $100 million goal to increase recycling. Though a $100 million commitment seems like a lot, it is less than what’s needed to substantially move the needle. As the company noted in its release this morning, it has spent $55 million in recycling efforts in the U.S. in the last 9 years alone. But, those efforts have failed to change the national recycling rate.

The Recycling Partnership, the group receiving the PepsiCo Foundation funds, is an excellent choice for support as they are strongly focused on improving recycling. However, the plan calls for just $25 million to come from corporate sources and $75 million from public sources. Many cities are unlikely to be able to fund improved recycling systems. We believe the majority of funding should come from corporate sources. With 8 million tons of plastic waste entering our oceans annually coupled with China’s plastic waste import ban, U.S. companies must be held more financially responsible to manage their waste.

“Pepsi should think bigger and use its influence to convince corporate beverage peers to roll up their sleeves and raise the full $100 million to begin to significantly move the needle.

“PepsiCo spent 24 times that amount—$2.4 billion—on advertising alone last year. If recycling rates continue to lag, the company will incur painful brand risk from the negative advertising of discarded packaging displayed on beaches and waterways. Food wrappers and beverage containers, like Fritos chip bags and soda and water bottles, are the second and third most frequently found items in beach cleanups. The time for bold action is now!”