ATLANTA, DEC. 4 -- Soft drink rivals Coca-Cola Co. and Pepsi Cola Co. each served up one for the environment today, making almost simultaneous announcements that they plan to sell their products in recycled plastic bottles.
The cola makers became the latest to join the corporate race to please an increasingly environmentally conscious market. If approved by the Food and Drug Administration, soft drink bottles would become one of the first cases in which recycled plastic is used in direct contact with food.
"I think recycling is one thing the cola warriors agree on totally," said Andrew Giangola, a spokesman at the Pepsi Cola's headquarters in Somers, N.Y. "They are both working with the mutual goal of creating the most environmentally correct packaging."
Pepsi Cola is the soft drink subsidiary of PepsiCo Inc.
"Producing new plastic beverage bottles with a blend of recycled plastic is a significant step ahead in plastics recycling," said M. Douglas Ivester, senior vice president at the Atlanta-based Coca-Cola.
The environmental organization Greenpeace was unimpressed. Spokeswoman Julie Brenegar said the beverage companies would do better by eliminating plastic packaging altogether.
"Plastics recycling is yet another way the plastics industry is trying to justify the use of plastics," she said, adding that new "virgin" plastic is needed even for recycled packages.
Jackie Prince, a staff scientist at the Washington-based Environmental Defense Fund, said the cola makers' plans are a step in the right direction.
"The reality is, there is a lot of plastic out there now, and we'd like to see what's there recycled," she said. "This brings plastics recycling further along the learning curve."
Plastic bottles are widely recycled now, but the finished material is used for such products as carpeting, piping and non-food containers -- not for food packaging.
A number of companies this year have taken steps to reduce the amount of solid waste disposed in landfills. McDonald's Corp. recently announced it will stop using plastic foam containers at its fast-food restaurants.
Corbin Miles, chief of the FDA's food packaging branch in Washington, said the federal agency so far has approved only one application -- from an egg company -- to use recycled plastic in direct contact with food. Miles said the FDA has been reviewing Coke's application for several months. FDA spokesman Jeff Nesbitt said the agency has been talking to Pepsi's partner, Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co., about the new technology involved in their recycling venture and plans to issue a review.
The FDA review will include analysis of product quality, consumer safety and environmental impact. Recycled plastic is considered "an indirect additive" to food, said FDA spokesman Chris Lecos.