Opinion

Making a Collective Impact for the Next Generation

Every day, we face new environmental challenges that threaten to cause lasting negative impacts on the livelihoods of the millions of people around the world who depend on nature. The global pandemic has only made the link between human and planetary health clearer, while exacerbating some of these challenges at the same time. And no one person or organization can solve them alone.

Lasting solutions require unwavering investment from business, community and environmental leaders, but these solutions can’t exist in a silo; collaboration is essential to success. That’s why our two organizations have partnered to work towards our shared goal of a more sustainable future with a specific focus on tackling plastic waste and working to transform our broken waste systems. 

No one wants plastic bottles to end up where they don’t belong: oceans, rivers and even our landfills. To truly protect the planet and create a future with No Plastic in Nature, we must work together to eliminate plastic from the environment and build an effective waste management system that focuses on reducing, reusing and recycling plastic. Those goals underpin the beverage industry’s Every Bottle Back initiative, which aims to reduce the beverage industry’s use of new plastic through improved collection and recycling of PET plastic bottles. To advance this work, this exciting project brings together an unprecedented coalition of America’s leading beverage companies as well as environmental and sustainability leaders at The Recycling Partnership and Closed Loop Partners. 

To accelerate our progress, the World Wildlife Fund is partnering with Every Bottle Back to quantify and track reductions in plastic and plastic waste. Specifically, Every Bottle Back leverages WWF’s ReSource: Plastic accounting methodology, the ReSource Footprint Tracker, as the framework to measure the program’s progress in reducing the use of new plastic and identify opportunities to make greater impacts overall. 

One year after the launch of ReSource, WWF issued the program’s inaugural report, Transparent 2020, which offers a comprehensive assessment of the systemic challenges companies face on plastic waste. Through this lens of transparency and cross-sector collaboration, Every Bottle Back and ReSource are together tackling a critical point for intervention in the U.S. plastic system: PET recycling. 

With help from new partners like the American Beverage Association, WWF aims to enlist 100-plus companies by 2030 to drive collective action and prevent at least 50 million metric tons of plastic from entering nature. 

Ultimately, efforts like Every Bottle Back and ReSource: Plastic are designed to provide a roadmap for all industries that are ready to translate plastic commitments to action but need guidance on how to get there. And because nothing multiplies impact like collaboration, we’re connecting companies, stakeholders and governments to transparently share data and discoveries to drive investments. In this way, we can create cross-sector opportunities to learn from and partner with those leading the charge.

By uniting the world’s leading companies across geographic and competitive lines, along with consumers and policymakers, the beverage industry will be a driver for reducing plastic in the environment by transforming systems to collect more of our 100 percent recyclable bottles. When collected and recycled, we can make them into new bottles and reduce our overall plastic footprint. And while the COVID-19 pandemic has devastated communities and economies around the globe, it has not dimmed our shared commitment to building a more sustainable future for all people and the planet. We will continue to work together to conserve resources and innovate the way we do business to further reduce our impact on the environment. 

Today more than ever, companies and NGOs need to look to the future – one where humans live in harmony with nature. And our hope is that this important collaboration between industry and environmental NGOs serves as a catalyst for others to follow and do more to make a collective impact for the next generation.

Sheila Bonini is the World Wildlife Fund’s senior vice president for private sector engagement, overseeing a team of sustainability professionals supporting the organization’s conservation mission. Katherine Lugar is president and chief executive officer of the American Beverage Association, the leading policy and public education advocate for the non-alcoholic beverage industry – including The Coca-Cola Co., Keurig Dr Pepper, PepsiCo – as well as bottlers, which together represent communities from coast to coast.

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