Coca-Cola is working to close the loop in St. Louis and help clean up the Mississippi River. In a first for both The Company and Living Lands and Waters, Coca-Cola piloted a “closed-loop” system – from volunteering to collect recyclables and other debris along the Mississippi River, to sorting the materials so they can be recycled into new items including new Coca-Cola plastic bottles.

“The mighty Mississippi is due for a recharge," said Chad Pregracke, founder of Living Lands and Waters. "Every day, illegal dumping, littering, storm water runoff, and flood events carry thousands of tires, household appliances, containers of unidentified liquids and plastic bottles into river systems. Thanks to grants from Coca-Cola and other sponsors, as well as the dedication of our staff and the thousands of volunteers, we can make a difference in transforming the face of America’s rivers.”

Living Lands and Waters operates a fleet of barges and industrial strength equipment designed to extract the heaviest of debris. From farm tractors to bowling balls, Founder Chad Pregracke, and his crew have pulled it out of the Mississippi. The collected debris is then sorted, recycled or disposed of properly. 

Instead of going to the landfill, Coca-Cola associates and volunteers sort through debris for recycle material.

A team of Coca-Cola Heartland associates joined other volunteers to collect and sort 14,480 pounds of debris – 63 percent (9,160 pounds) of which was diverted from the landfill for recycling. Coca-Cola then partnered with Phoenix Technologies to convert the plastic bottles into recycled PET plastic which is being used in new Coca-Cola bottles that are hitting store shelves throughout the month of July.

“Heartland Coca-Cola is proud to lend a hand to support the cleanup effort on the Mississippi and help close the loop on our packaging in St. Louis,” said Junior Bridgeman, CEO, Heartland Coca-Cola. “At Heartland, we are committed to serving our community and one of the many ways we can do that is by working to preserve our waterways and help ensure our packaging is recovered and recycled”.

The Coca-Cola Foundation provided a $50,000 grant to help support 60 volunteer river cleanups this summer and fall with an estimated 3,500 participants. The company will continue to pilot the closed loop system in collaboration with recyclers and bottle manufacturers at other cleanup sites along the Mississippi, Illinois and Ohio Rivers. These cleanups are expected to remove more than 250 tons of debris primarily along the Mississippi.

Coca-Cola associates and volunteers go through debris from the Mississippi, looking for plastic bottles to convert into recycled PET plastic.

About Living Lands & Waters

Chad Pregracke started Living Lands & Waters in 19987 as a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the beautification and restoration of America’s major rivers and the education of environmental issues. From his single boat beginning LL&W has grown to an industrial strength internationally known organization with a fleet of barges and workboats. LL&W engages thoughts of volunteers each year in river cleanups, on environmental education workshops, the Great Mississippi Cleanup, Adopt a River Mile program, invasive species removing and the Million Trees project.

About The Coca-Cola Foundation

The Coca-Cola Foundation is the global philanthropic arm of The Coca-Cola Company. Since its inception in 1984, the Foundation has awarded more than $900 million in grants to support sustainable community initiatives around the world. For more information about The Coca-Cola Foundation, visit www.coca-colagivingback.com