America Recycles Week reminds us of the importance of working together to protect our environment – especially as we face new challenges because of COVID-19.

The pandemic has dramatically changed our day-to-day lives, with many Texans working and schooling from home. This increased amount of time in the household has led to more products consumed at home, and in turn, a greater demand for recycling collections leaving many systems struggling to keep up with the unprecedented demand.

In light of these challenges, America's leading beverage companies – Coca-Cola, Keurig Dr Pepper and PepsiCo – haven't slowed their commitment to reducing the industry's footprint by getting every bottle back so that it’s remade into new bottles.  In fact, this year as part of the beverage industry’s Every Bottle Back initiative, $3 million was invested in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex to modernize the collection, recycling and processing of recyclable material in the region.

Launched by the American Beverage Association, in partnership with key environmental organizations World Wildlife Fund, The Recycling Partnership and Closed Loop Partners, Every Bottle Back (EBB) aims to decrease the use of new plastic through major investments like the one in the DFW region that modernize recycling infrastructure and educate consumers on efficient recycling practices.

The Recycling Partnership and Closed Loop Partners identified the region as a target for investment because of the opportunity to capture more PET plastic bottles to remake into new products, as intended. The region disposes of approximately $122 million of potentially recyclable material annually, and recyclable plastics and metals represent the highest value of material with the lowest capture rates in the region, according to an analysis from the North Texas Council of Governments (COG). 

EBB is investing $2 million in the Balcones Resources Material Recovery Facility (MRF) located in the Dallas Metroplex, enhancing it with state-of-the-art technology to allow the facility to capture more PET plastic bottles. These include optical sorters, machinery with artificial intelligence, robotic arms that separate recyclable plastics, and new belt configurations to improve the processing of more recyclable materials.

We’re also expanding recycling access to 50,000 residents living in 20,000 multi-family units in the Dallas Metroplex by providing upgraded recycling vehicles, on-site educational outreach, new containers, in-unit bin and totes to deposit recyclable materials.

Finally, we're partnering with local governments and community leaders to further educate consumers on recycling efficiently and decreasing recycling contamination. For example, we've teamed up with City of Fort Worth to educate residents in 232,000 homes with best-in-class educational materials.  We've also provided a grant to support the North Central Texas COG's public service campaign "Know What To Throw," which aims to educate residents across 230 communities about ways to decrease contamination of valuable recyclable materials like PET bottles and aluminum cans.

By improving recycling infrastructure and expanding recycling access and education, these investments in DFW will increase the collection, recycling and processing of all recyclable material, including PET plastic bottles, that can be remade into new bottles, decreasing our need for new plastic to bring beverages to market.

As we look ahead to Every Bottle Back's second year, TBA extends our thanks to all of our partners and looks forward to expanding our unique collaboration between industry, environmental groups and local governments to achieve our shared goal of a circular economy.

Carol McGarah is the executive director of Texas Beverage Association.

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