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Alabama Beverage Companies Celebrate Earth Day
By Virginia Banister, Executive Director of the Alabama Beverage Association
Every Earth Day is a reminder that protecting our environment is an obligation we all share, whether it’s companies, government or ordinary citizens. The companies that belong to the Alabama Beverage Association take this responsibility seriously and take pride in an industry that is conserving and reusing resources and preventing litter.
One of the most significant ways beverage companies are leading on the environment is by designing our bottles and cans so they can be fully recycled.
Particularly, the beverage industry makes plastic bottles that are 100 percent recyclable, even the caps. Every bottle and can we make can be reused over and over and made into new products. Our plastic beverage bottles are unique. They can be remade into new bottles but also into clothing, carpeting, even dog beds. We design them specifically so we can use recycled plastic rather than make new plastic. We’ve even light-weighted our bottles to use less material.
To get these bottles back for reuse, we have invested significantly in our nation’s recycling systems, helping communities across the country so our fully recyclable containers don’t end up in oceans, rivers or beaches.
Leading American beverage companies such as The Coca-Cola Company, PepsiCo and Keurig Dr Pepper have invested tens of millions of dollars into improving recycling, from providing bins for public space recycling to supporting groups like Keep America Beautiful and The Recycling Partnership.
Alabama’s beverage companies are also working to reuse or recycle all waste coming from their production facilities. Today, the beverage industry is diverting from landfills more than 94 percent of the waste generated at their manufacturing and production facilities. These efforts have saved hundreds of millions of pounds of raw materials.
Our commitment to sustainability extends to other resources like water, too. America’s non-alcoholic beverage industry has reduced water use by 14 percent per unit over a five-year period. The Coca-Cola Company is the first Fortune 500 company to replenish all the water it uses globally. PepsiCo recently exceeded its global water stewardship goals and reduced operational water use by 26 percent. Keurig Dr Pepper has committed $1 million to The Nature Conservancy in support of watershed protection. These efforts are helping preserve one of our most precious resources in water.
From the Alabama’s Gulf Coast to the Shoals and all across the state, we here in Alabama enjoy an abundance of natural beauty and resources. Alabama’s beverage companies continually work on ways to reduce our environmental impact because it’s the right thing to do for our companies and our state. People expect it of us, and we will always work with our communities and customers to meet this obligation.
STRATEGIES FOR PREVENTING RECYCLING CONTAMINATION
The City of Guntersville Recycling Program is entering its 25th year of operation. As we reach this milestone, it seemed an appropriate time to remind the public of proper recycling procedures. Tariffs on recyclables have significantly impacted the global recycling market, thus, causing recycled material buyers to become more selective about the quality of the materials purchased. Such events require us to reexamine strategies for handling recycling areas of concern.
One of the chief challenges faced by recycling programs is the need to reduce the growing rate of recycling contaminates. Recycling contamination happens when the wrong items are put into recycling bags/containers. Likewise, the right items can also become contaminated when remaining liquids have not been poured out of food or beverage containers. In the same way, items like plastic, tin, or aluminum containers for food, beverages, or personal care products must be rinsed to remove food particles and oily residues from recyclable substances. Contaminants cause materials to lose their recycling qualities and can even ruin other materials mingled in the same bags/containers. This can cause recyclable purchase agents to reject the whole batch and turns polluted items into nothing more than trash. Landfill tipping fees have soared in recent years and we need residents and business partners to be vigorous in their efforts to recycle and to do it correctly so that we can reduce the volume of substances we send to the dump. We want to maximize our recycling potential so that taxpayer money can be spent on providing more appealing services than trash disposal. Furthermore, residue build-up is a concern because it can cause equipment such a balers to malfunction and may put worker safety at risk.
Examples of items that should NOT be included in recycling are biohazards/medical waste such as used needles and syringes, dirty diapers, food scraps, grass clippings, leaves, animal waste, or dead animals. Even potentially recyclable materials can become contaminates if those items are NOT collected by your local recycling program. Collection of plastic materials can be tricky. Manufacturer labels identifying items as recyclables are found stamped on bottom of many products. These can be somewhat helpful, especially those identifying a containers grade of plastic by number. Our recycling program accepted plastics 1-6 for many years, but our primary materials buyer began restricting its purchases to Plastics 1 and 2 last spring. The City of Guntersville Recycling Program still hand sorts the items we receive, but are able to provide services more effectively if they do not have to devote a significant amount of time to discarding unusable materials.
Paper products are some of the best sources for increasing our recycling rate. We accept a variety of clean paper products from documents, junk mail, ad circulars, envelopes, newspapers, old worksheets and school papers, to magazines, books, empty cereal boxes, cracker boxes, paper towel rolls, toilet tissue rolls and the like. You can even recycle your unsoiled, fast food paper bags once they’re empty. We often receive question about what to do with pizza boxes. A few restaurants use paper liners that may prevent contaminates from soiling the boxes. Some avid recyclers tear off the unsoiled box tops for recycling. We want to accept as much paper and cardboard as possible; however, if those boxes are soiled, then we recommend that you toss them in the garbage. Used napkins and tissues should also be placed in the trash. As a general rule, recycling experts advise that when it comes to recycling, “when it doubt, leave it out”.
Written by: Nicole Reyes, City of Guntersville Recycling Coordinator
ARC Board Member