5802 Hidden Orchard Dr.
Greensboro, NC 27410
Mr. Douglas N. Daft
Chairman of the Board of Directors and Chief Executive Officer
The Coca-Cola Company
P. O. Box 1734
Atlanta, GA 30301
Dear Mr. Daft:
I wistfully recall my grandfather pulling a chilled Coke from the drink box in his eastern North Carolina country store and gulping it down in just a few swallows. The drinks from his drink box always seemed to be the coldest and could cut the dust from a parched throat almost instantly. Even so, I stood amazed at how he could slug down a 7 ounce Coke so quickly. I aspired to duplicate that feat someday… but never did. I also remember how, on many hot summer days, I made a few dollars by picking up drink bottles from the fields where farm workers had left them and redeeming them for the two-cent deposit. That was in the 1960’s, when two cents alone was enough to buy two pieces of bubble gum or two Mary Jane’s or one Tootsie Roll Pop. Pick up enough bottles and you could easily buy a complete snack: a drink, a bag of chips and a candy bar.
I also recall the deep understanding and appreciation my grandfather had for his community and the social fabric from which it was woven. His store was located in a poor, rural county where farming was the primary occupation. Often, my grandfather would extend credit to shoppers who couldn’t afford to pay him for the basic goods they purchased from his store. And frequently, he would simply forgive the debt or allow someone to ‘work off’ the money they owed if he thought payment created a special hardship. My grandfather knew the value of money, but more importantly he knew the value of responsible citizenship even if it meant he didn’t profit as much on some days as others. His sense of community, fairness and altruism had no price. Although not wealthy by any means, his success was determined more by his contributions to the community than by how much money he made.
These wonderful, nostalgic memories of my grandfather, his country store and Coca-Cola are a part of my past that I shall always treasure. It is classic Americana.
During my work in the environmental field, which spans 13 years, I have witnessed many successes and failures. I count as a success the announcements made by both Coke and Pepsi that they will begin using plastic beverage containers made from10% post-consumer PET. Although late in coming, I applaud theses efforts and hope that the carbonated soft drink industry will increase the amount of post-consumer recycled content in its plastic bottles in the future. On the other hand, I count as a failure the National Soft Drink Association’s (predictable) attempt to discredit the sincere efforts and technically exhaustive work of the Multi-Stakeholder Recovery Project undertaken by BEAR (Businesses and Environmentalists Allied for Recycling) in its beverage container value chain assessment report. It is a failure of immense proportions on the part of the carbonated soft drink industry to refuse to come to the table and work closely with other community stakeholders to address a persistent and pervasive waste – used plastic beverage containers. With national average recycling rates for all beverage containers languishing, even declining in some areas, the soft drink industry has no excuse for remaining on the sidelines during this national dialogue.
It is particularly troublesome that the carbonated soft drink industry seems to have sold its corporate conscience to the National Soft Drink Association, a group that ostensibly exists only to insulate the industry from the voice of its consumers while portraying it as inherently patriotic. I take exception to the NSDA’s use of the slogan “Soft Drinks – A good part of America” while it continues to package its products in non-returnable, non-reusable, non-recyclable plastic bottles. There is nothing good about the millions of plastic beverage containers that end up in landfills across America because Americans that consume your products have no place to return or recycle them. There is nothing good about the fact that plastic beverage containers are one of the most commonly found items in roadside litter across America. There is certainly nothing good about how the soft drink industry, through the NSDA, disputes these immutable facts and openly works against efforts to find ways to reduce plastic beverage container waste in America.
The soft drink industry must accept responsibility for its used packaging and return to the negotiating table to help craft practical, effective bottle recovery programs. Until such time as it does, my American family of four will no longer purchase any of your products in plastic containers. We want your products but not your trash! And I know that if my grandfather were alive today, he would support our decision.
B. Wayne Turner Andrea Turner
Alex Turner (12) Hayley Turner (6)