Over the past year, when regular activities were suspended, many Kentuckians have relied on an occasional jaunt into the great outdoors to cheer us up. While it is easy to appreciate our natural environment, we often forget what it takes to preserve it.

World Environment Day, June 5, provides an important opportunity to reflect on the steps that need to be taken to protect our environment. At the Kentucky Beverage Association, we continually seek opportunities to conserve our natural resources and give back to the communities we serve.

To reduce our plastic footprint and protect the planet, the beverage industry carefully designs our plastic bottles to be 100% recyclable, including caps. Once recycled, they can be made into new bottles, reducing the need for new plastic and promoting a circular economy for our bottles. Unfortunately, some of our neighborhoods have outdated recycling infrastructure, and there is often confusion about what materials can be recycled.

That’s why Kentucky beverage companies have invested to modernize Louisville’s recycling infrastructure and improve access for families.

According to a 2018 Solid Waste Study for Louisville and Jefferson County, only 18% of residential waste is recycled, while the same study found that “two-thirds of all materials that residents and businesses in Jefferson County sent to landfills were currently or potentially recoverable.” The study found that some recycling programs only existed on a limited scale, that not all educational materials were widely disseminated, and information on how best to recycle was inconsistent across the county.

Related: Recycling pickup to change in Louisville, and new bins are on the way

City leaders believed Louisville should do better, and Kentucky beverage companies are happy to help make it happen.

Since 2019, America’s leading beverage companies have partnered with environmental groups and local leaders in an innovative partnership called the Every Bottle Back initiative. By working with the City of Louisville and our environmental partner, The Recycling Partnership, our investment of $ 500,000 will significantly expand access to safe and efficient recycling and improved collection infrastructure. The money is used to supply larger sidewalk carts to 28,000 homes in Louisville, enabling more Kentuckians to regularly recycle materials, including our 100% recyclable beverage bottles and cans.

As used plastic bottles are collected, the beverage industry is able to make new ones. Not only are we keeping them out of rivers, lakes and landfills, but we’re using less new plastic overall.

Improving access to larger carts for Louisville residents is only half the battle. Polls show that nearly 50% of consumers are unaware that plastic beverage bottles are 100% recyclable.

To tackle this challenge head-on, we educate community members about what is and is not recyclable so that they can successfully participate in the Louisville recycling program. With this Every Bottle Back investment, we will be providing educational materials on recycling to residents of Louisville.

The challenges of recycling differ from city to city, and we believe this donation can help make a difference. Louisville Every Bottle Back’s investment will produce 35 million new pounds of recyclable material in 10 years, including 1.4 million new pounds of recycled PET, the 100% recyclable material our products are made of.

In recognition of World Environment Day and every day, the Kentucky Beverage Association is proud to help build a more sustainable future for our community. We are delighted to continue to work alongside Kentuckians to deliver innovative solutions that can protect the environment for generations to come.

Sara Massey is the Executive Director of the Kentucky Beverage Association, the trade association for the Kentucky soft drink industry, which has served the public and its members since 1917.

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