Trash cans are overflowing.

Let's Make Atlanta First U.S. City Without Packaging Waste

An Op-Ed by CCN President Jim Dinkins


Trash cans are overflowing. Landfills are packed with paper and plastic. Storm drains are collecting waste that pollutes our vital waterways.

If we don’t change course, the Chattahoochee River won’t be a place where our grandchildren play, and the Gulf of Mexico will no longer be where our families happily vacation.

As a business that makes beverages in plastic bottles and cans, The Coca‑Cola Co. shares responsibility for this problem. And we will share in the solution by bringing our best creativity to rethink how we recycle and reuse our packaging.

Last year, we set an ambitious goal to collect and recycle the equivalent of a bottle or can for each one we sell around the world by 2030. We are also working to increase our use of recycled and renewable content to 50 percent of our packaging in the same timeframe.

This is not only the right thing to do – it is essential to the long-term success of our business and our community.

We envision a future where all plastic bottles and aluminum cans are continuously recycled in a circular ecosystem. Every bottle and can will be reused to make something you need. And these goods will help drive local recycling economies from Atlanta to Africa to Asia and beyond.

But the first step is getting recycling right. The truth is, people are confused when it comes to recycling — and maybe a little skeptical, too. Our national recycling rates — hovering at 34 percent — show this striking lack of understanding and access.

These barriers are not reasons to give up. They are reasons to challenge ourselves to transform our hometown into a city without packaging waste, and to lay the foundation for a world without waste. Our ambition is to measurably improve recycling participation in Atlanta and recover the equivalent of a bottle and can for each one we sell in Atlanta over the next few years, in addition to expanding package-less delivery of our products through innovative, self-serve dispensers like Coca‑Cola Freestyle.

If we don’t change course, the Chattahoochee River won’t be a place where our grandchildren play, and the Gulf of Mexico will no longer be where our families happily vacation.

To support this ambition, we will also use the power of our marketing to inspire people to imagine the possibilities that can be recreated when bottles and cans have second, third and fourth lives. We will launch the next chapter of #CocaColaRenew, which includes recycling collection events to recover bottles that can be recreated to make something new to serve local communities. Whether it’s another bottle, a coat, or a blanket for people in need, we want our packages to be recycled and reused so they have endless value – not to end up where they don’t belong.

Separately, The Coca‑Cola Foundation has announced a grant to The Recycling Partnership to help make recycling easier for residents citywide. Through the grant, The Recycling Partnership and the City of Atlanta will work together to bring a unique “Feet on the Street” recycling education program to every zip code in the city of Atlanta – about 100,000 households.

Street teams will tag household recycling bins with inspirational scorecards, letting us know when we are recycling right and how we can improve. This program has a proven track record of success — a smaller-scale test in 2017 drove a 57 percent decrease in recycling contamination and 27 percent increase in recycling participation in certain areas of our city.

As an Atlanta-area native who raised my family in this beautiful city, I long to see us protect it for the next generation. And, as a proud employee of a company that has called Atlanta home for over a century, I know we can use our resources and our passion to make a difference.

But no one organization can do this alone. History shows us that when we come together, Atlantans can achieve big things. We need your help to make Atlanta an inspiring model for other cities to follow. I hope you will join us.

Jim Dinkins is president of Coca‑Cola North America.