Last week PepsiCo Beverages Canada announced the introduction of the 7UP EcoGreen™ bottle- America’s first soft drink bottle made from 100 percent recycled PET plastic. 100% recycled PET for carbonated beverages has been a tougher nut to crack because of the pressure on the bottle structure from the carbonation. It has to hold the pressure, plain and simple.
But PepsiCo’s breakthrough is significant for a much broader reason. Being able to buy a product made for 100% recycled material is a critical link in a true “closed loop” materials system. What does that mean, and why should you care?
Too much material today is used only once. This is called an “open loop” system. We take some “stuff” from the earth, heat it, beat it and treat it, and make a “thing”. Then we use the thing and when we are done with it, throw it “away”- which usually means burying it in a hole in the ground. Who designed this system!? Where’s the imagination?
Closed loop means that the material is recaptured after its use and recycled into new product, again and again. The only thing that’s added is energy. And it takes a lot less energy to recycling a PET bottle than it does to make a new one from scratch, enough energy savings to run a 60 watt light bulb for 6 hours, or a 20 watt compact fluorescent bulb for 18 hours!
Closing the loop means we don’t have to go back to the oil or gas well, mineshaft, forest or field to get more “stuff” to make the next product. It saves habitat that is destroyed or poisoned by extracting resources. It means we don’t have to send troops into harm’s way in far off lands to protect scarce resources. It improves the security of nations and leaves more resources for others.
The idea itself that we can make and buy things made entirely from recycled materials is also important. I envision a day, not far off, when citizen consumers will not consider products made from virgin materials, and producers will offer them at their peril.
So whether you are a soda drinker or not, you should welcome what PepsiCo’s 100% recycled bottle represents- a way of living in the planet that mimics nature’s endless cycles.