The trademark green 7UP bottles got a little greener in Canada this summer.

PepsiCo Beverages Canada unveiled the new 7UP EcoGreen bottles in July and
rolled them out across the country last month. The bottles are made from 100% recycled PET plastic.

By using recycled PET, or polyethylene terephthalate, from old bottles
instead of using virgin plastics, the company says it will cut its greenhouse
gas emissions by 30%. It will also reduce its energy use by 55% during manufacturing, the company reported.

The EcoGreen bottle took three years to develop, said Sarah Robbins, 7UP
marketing manager for PepsiCo Beverages Canada, in an e-mail interview.

“We certainly hope others follow our lead,” she wrote. “The 7UP EcoGreen bottle is North America’s first soft drink bottle made from 100% recycled PET plastic – a significant achievement for PepsiCo and a breakthrough for the Canadian beverage sector. The development of the 7UP EcoGreen bottle is a win for PepsiCo and our customers, a win for our consumers and a win for the environment.”

On average, PepsiCo mixes 10% of recycled PET (rPET) in soft drink bottles in the U.S. and Canada.

According to PepsiCo, carbonated beverages put more stress on rPET plastic
because pressure builds within the bottles. Pepsi-owned Naked Juice, based in
Monrovia, Calif., already uses 100% rPET for its products, but the juices are not carbonated.

Robbins said EcoGreen containers look like any other PET plastic bottle and
that consumers won’t notice a difference in the packaging. Pricing also will
remain competitive with other brands even though rPET costs more to create, she said.

“Food-grade recycled material costs more than virgin materials, partly because of supply limitations,” Robbins said.

Some environmental advocates think this material would be a welcome sight in heavily populated metropolitan areas. Increased use of 100% rPET could make recycling a lot easier in Detroit, just across a river from Canada, said Sandra Turner-Handy, community outreach coordinator for the Michigan Environmental Council.

“With [water bottles] having no economic value to consumers, they have to be landfilled,” Turner-Handy said. “They don’t break down in the landfill.”

Before Pepsi can expand the use of rPET in the United States, it has to figure out how to deal with a lack of high-quality recyclable material.

“PepsiCo always shares the best and brightest innovations across borders, so 100% rPET is definitely being considered in other countries,” Robbins wrote. “However, currently the supply of high-quality recycled material in the industry is limited. Our supply-chain teams are working to develop the appropriate supply networks to allow us to expand the availability of 100% rPET.”

Susan Collins, executive director of the Container Recycling Institute in
Culver City, Calif., said this is the first time she’s heard of a company using the material for carbonated beverages.

Collins said Canada’s bottle deposit laws make it easier for Pepsi to create recycled PET containers because there is a steady supply of clean bottles coming in.

Meanwhile, most American states’ deposit laws lag in comparison, she said.

“It’s no surprise that they’re able to do this in Canada more easily. Nearly every Canadian province has a container deposit law,” Collins said. “In the U.S., we have 10 states with deposit laws, but the type of beverages vary. Only 6 of 10 collect noncarbonated bottles. Even though the recycling rate is 70%, the PET recycling rate is only 20%.”

Misha Cook, executive director of PITCH-IN Canada, praised Pepsi for taking
the initiative and adopting a more eco-friendly approach to its operations. PITCH-IN Canada is a nonprofit organization that promotes environmental welfare and coordinates “action projects” such as recycling or composting programs.

“By using 100% rPET, we aren’t using any more natural resources,” said Cook,
who has purchased one of the new 2-liter bottles herself. “They’re reducing the amount of virgin plastic by 6 million pounds. We commend them. They’re trying to become a more responsible company.”

Contact Waste & Recycling News reporter Vince Bond Jr. at
vbond@crain.com or 313-446-1653.

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