Opinion: Working together to boost recycling in Gwinnett

Gwinnett recently accepted up to $100,000 in grant funding from The Recycling Partnership for recycling education and outreach initiatives. (Courtesy The Recycling Partnership)
Gwinnett recently accepted up to $100,000 in grant funding from The Recycling Partnership for recycling education and outreach initiatives. (Courtesy The Recycling Partnership)

If this past year has taught us anything, it’s that our community is resilient. In times of crisis, we join together to support each other and work with our neighbors to overcome challenges. We pride ourselves on finding solutions to problems and unifying around making our state a better place for our families.

Public health and environmental health are directly intertwined. As we reflect on our recent celebration of Environment Day, Georgia’s beverage companies remain committed and are proud to join with the county and our nonprofit partners to help improve our recycling infrastructure and keep litter out of the environment. In Gwinnett County, we’re fortunate to be surrounded by beautiful lakes, rivers and mountains, and we have a responsibility to do our part to protect Georgia’s pristine environment.

Georgia’s beverage companies are working with a diverse group of public and private industry partners to bring real solutions to our state that will help increase the collection of valuable recyclable materials, including our 100% recyclable beverage bottles and cans.

We’re proud to partner with Gwinnett County, which has been selected to receive a targeted investment under the Every Bottle Back initiative, an effort by the beverage industry that funds improvements in recycling systems nationwide. America’s beverage industry is teaming with The Recycling Partnership to invest $100,000 for a campaign to boost consumer awareness, educate Georgians about proper recycling methods, and encourage residents of unincorporated Gwinnett County to request free curbside recycling carts from the county. Additionally, a grant totaling $15,000 has been committed to the city of Norcross to improve the quality of the community’s recycling stream, which brings the total regional investment to $115,000.

In Georgia, our state’s beverage makers recognize the present challenges with community recycling, and we’re excited to work toward tangible solutions to improve our state’s recycling efforts. To achieve a true circular economy for recyclables, we must work together with industry, government and environmental partners alike to revitalize our state’s recycling infrastructure and educate consumers on efficient and effective recycling measures. Here in Gwinnett County, we’re doing just that.

Gwinnett households are eligible for free, large-capacity recycling carts from the county. To date, more than 52,000 households have requested them, but there are still 145,000 households that have not. We believe that confusion for consumers and minimal access are main reasons why our communities do not have higher recycling rates. Through Every Bottle Back, Gwinnett County is looking to raise those rates with expanded, equitable access to recycling and residential education about what can and cannot be recycled in our local recycling program.

Every Bottle Back is an integrated and comprehensive effort, spearheaded by Atlanta-based The Coca-Cola Co., along with Keurig Dr Pepper and PepsiCo, to reduce the industry’s use of new plastic by partnering with environmental and sustainability champions at The Recycling Partnership, World Wildlife Fund and Closed Loop Partners to invest in local communities and make consumer recycling easier and more accessible.

The goal of this effort is to get every one of our 100% recyclable beverage bottles back so that they can be remade into new bottles, as intended. In supporting Gwinnett County’s recycling program, we’ll keep our beverage containers out of the environment and landfills where they should never be in the first place.

As more of our bottles are collected and remade, we will also be able to use less plastic, helping us achieve true plastics circularity and reduce the industry’s plastic footprint.

It is estimated that Gwinnett County will collect over 1.3 million new pounds of recycled PET over 10 years because of this endeavor. In total, this investment in Georgia will yield an estimated 27.3 million new pounds of all recyclables over a 10-year span.

We’re excited to work alongside our neighbors and local partners to achieve a true circular economy. We look forward to building unity in Georgia around this initiative so that we can improve our environment and reduce our use of new plastic for generations to come.

Kevin Perry is the president and chief executive officer of the Georgia Beverage Association. To learn more about the Every Bottle Back initiative, visit www.EveryBottleBack.org.