In 2015 alone, the United States generated over 34.5 million tons of plastic, yet only recycled 9% of it. The reason? According to a survey conducted in 2019, researchers found many Americans don’t recycle because they don’t understand how. PepsiCo Recycling wants that to change—and thinks educating the next generation will be pivotal.
To do so, PepsiCo Recycling has engaged with over 7,000 schools and made over 3,000 partnerships nationwide. Curious to learn more about PepsiCo Recycling—its story, partnerships, and vision for the future—I sat down with Tom Mooradian, PepsiCo’s Senior Manager of Environmental Sustainability.
How PepsiCo Recycling partners with schools and students
To equip the next generation with recycling knowledge, PepsiCo started the Recycle Rally, an initiative focused on providing schools with educational resources and other activities.
In its 10 years of operation, PepsiCo Recycling has created an online resource library, including do-it-yourself projects, Mooradian shares. But at the very core, PepsiCo Recycling wants students to understand why recycling is important.
How recycling plays into environmental impact is a complex topic. To break it down, PepsiCo Recycling has launched a variety of initiatives, including its Impact Tracker, a visual aid that illustrates energy and trees saved, as well as greenhouse gas emissions avoided.
The Recycling Rally also provides a bin placement guide, which gamifies how students locate their school’s recycling centers. The program has also worked with authors like Jeff Kinney, who wrote the “Diary of the Wimpy Kid” series; together, they have created educational campaigns that position effective recycling as the norm.
PepsiCo Recycling has also hosted a nationwide competition. Through it, the company hopes to encourage competition among schools to see who can recycle the most. Since the program’s launch in 2010, participants have recycled more than 34.5 million pounds of material, the company says.
Collaborating with NGOs—’and even our competitors’
While PepsiCo Recycling has encouraged schools and their students to recycle millions of pounds of materials, the company sees the future as a collaborative one.
“We continue to deepen and expand our networks—working with NGOs, local recycling leaders, consumers, governments, and even our competitors— to advance new approaches and pilot new models,” Mooradian tells me.
For example, PepsiCo’s Closed Loop Fund enabled $270 million in co-investments to support the elimination of waste. And its first 45 projects diverted 1.3 million tons of waste from landfills.
Additionally, PepsiCo Recycling partners with The Recycling Partnership, an organization dedicated to increasing curbside recycling rates, largely through education.
Specifically, the company partnered with The Recycling Partnership to launch “All in One Recycling,” a challenge focused on raising $25 million to improve recycling for 25 million families across the U.S. But the funding won’t stop there.
“In addition to contributions from other corporations, the more than 2,800 communities that participate in the initiative are expected to triple the collective investment,” Tom adds. “This would catalyze roughly $75 million in municipal funding, and bringing the total amount of support to $100 million.”
Jalen Xing is a Writer at theRising and the co-founder of Students For Hospitals. You can pitch him stories at jalen.xing [at] gmail [dot] com.