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Beverage Companies Go Sustainable With Biodegradable Plastics, Ramped Up Recycling

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Coca-Cola (nyse: KO) announced plans today to invest $24 million, along with ECO Plastics Ltd. (which will contribute about $5 million of that) to build a new, plastic bottle recycling facility in Lincolnshire, England. In recent weeks, the company also struck a landmark deal to sell its 30 percent plant-based plastic to Heinz, which will begin to use it in ketchup and condiments packaging in June.

Another major beverage player, SodaStream (nasdaq: SODA) announced today that it will soon ship its flavored syrups in bottles that can decompose in a landfill in five years. Regular plastic bottles take 450 years to decompose, according to general waste industry estimates.

SodaStream’s new “Bio Bottles” (image, below) are made using additives from Bio-Tec Environmental, LLC an Albuquerque, New Mexico company in a traditional bottle manufacturing process. The Bio Bottles were designed and will be manufactured by SodaStream. Bio-Tec’s EcoPure additives will be incorporated into the bottles, caps, and shrink-wrap rendering all components biodegradable in landfill or compost (or recyclable).

While recyclers, additives businesses, and non-petroleum plastic makers all offer landfill waste reduction benefits, it’s not clear how many more investments companies like Coke, Heinz and SodaStream will have to make before we see a reversal of some of the damages to our planet they already enabled.

According to the most recent available numbers provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in 2009 about 12.53 million tons of plastic containers and packaging (including bottles) ended up in US landfills.

Aside from other potentially harmful chemicals and impacts, most plastics used in food and beverage packaging have estrogenic-active compounds. In other words, most commonly available plastics have the “potential ability to interfere with the body’s endocrine system and produce adverse physiological effects,” according to research funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.