Flint, MI Schools Launch Water Bottle Recycling Initiative

This builds upon a partnership forged in 2016 that provided for storage and delivery of bottled water to Flint schools.

The Coca-Cola Company, Nestlé Waters North America, the PepsiCo Foundation, and the Walmart Foundation have announced that they have partnered to fund an integrated recycling education and awareness initiative for the 10,000 school students affected by the Flint water crisis, led by national non-profit Keep America Beautiful and its local Flint, MI, affiliate Keep Genesee County Beautiful.

In January 2016, the four companies announced they would provide up to 6.5 million bottles of safe and clean drinking water to Flint school students. From the outset of the program, they have been providing for the storage and delivery of the bottled water, as well as the transporting of the empty water bottles for recycling.

Flint water crisis
Photo: Chris Farina/Futura Photography

The new initiative, announced February 28, 2017 at Kettering University in Flint, provides funding for a multi-tiered educational approach aimed at increasing the number of plastic bottles that are recycled within school grounds as well as create opportunities to provide students, teachers, and staff with the information and motivation to recycle at home, at school, and elsewhere.

“Keep America Beautiful is thrilled to receive broad support from a host of partners in our efforts to educate, motivate, and activate Flint’s students, teachers, and the broader school community to properly recycle the tremendous amount of material that is being generated,” said Brenda Pulley, senior vice president, Recycling for Keep America Beautiful. “This is a great opportunity for us to work closely with Keep Genesee County Beautiful to make a meaningful difference in improving recycling throughout Flint and to teach the next generation of environmental stewards the benefits of recycling and how to recycle right.”

The K-12 school-based program objectives are to:

  • Provide outreach, tools, resources and activities to educate, motivate and activate students, staff, and teachers to recycle more and do this effectively;
  • Organize, support and share resources with recycling champions at each school to support day-to-day recycling efforts;
  • Share best practices and support school personnel responsible for collecting and consolidating recycling at each school on proper recycling bin placement, signage, and collection of the recyclables; and
  • Track and report the amount of recyclables being collected by the schools with the goal of achieving a 25% increase in recycling.

“Promoting recycling education and infrastructure to Flint schools in partnership with Keep America Beautiful is important and something we are actively engaged in,” said Aaron Stallings, Walmart market manager for the retailer’s North Central Division. “We see this program contributing to a more resilient and sustainable Flint.”

Flint water crisis
At the February 28, 2017 press conference in Flint, MI, (from l to r) Scott Henzi, regional VP, PepsiCo; Jim Winkler, VP and regional general manager, Wal-Mart; Sharrece Farris, deputy superintendent, Flint Community Schools; Karen West, executive director, Keep Genesee County Beautiful; Brenda Pulley, Keep America Beautiful; and Bruce Karas, VP environment and sustainability, The Coca-Cola Company. (Photo: Chris Farina/Futura Photography)

“The Coca-Cola Company understands the importance of ongoing support for the residents of the City of Flint. Providing water for daily use was the first step and the promotion of recycling and recycling education round out this support,” said Bruce Karas, vice president, Environment and Sustainability, The Coca-Cola Company North America. “We must all do our part to ensure that residents’ needs are met and the City of Flint returns to the viable and vibrant city we all know it can be.”

“Water is a human right and as soon as the PepsiCo team learned about Flint and their drinking water supply, we reached out to be part of creating sustainable, local solutions,” said Tim Carey, senior director, Sustainability and Recycling, PepsiCo. “We all want to be part of communities with abundant natural resources so PepsiCo is pleased to support the City of Flint and other partners to give back to Genesee County. We’re striving to collect every bottle and every can as part of this powerful partnership.”

“Access to clean, safe drinking water is the right of every man, woman and child. That is why helping our neighbors in Flint is something we’ve been proud to do,” said Nelson Switzer, chief sustainability officer for Nestlé Waters North America. “But our shared commitment doesn’t end there. We now need to work together so the bottles the coalition used to deliver safe drinking water are recovered and recycled. Together with our coalition partners and the families of Flint, we are very pleased to kick start a massive recycling opportunity.”

Keep America Beautiful is working in tandem with Keep Genesee County Beautiful to tailor the recycling educational lesson plans, tools, and activities for Flint’s students, while ongoing recycling education and program implementation is being conducted by the County staff and volunteers. Resources include take-home materials in an effort to bring the school education and experience home, reaching families in their residences to also enhance curbside recycling participation.

“Since this crisis began, Keep Genesee County Beautiful has been the ‘go-to’ recycling resource for the Flint community. We help Flint residents cope with the water crisis by raising awareness and educating residents about the benefits of recycling, by signing up residents for curbside recycling and being a pickup point for recycling bins,” said Karen West, program director/lead consultant with Keep Genesee County Beautiful. “We are incredibly grateful for this financial support and appreciate the opportunity to work with Keep America Beautiful and the students and staff of Flint schools to encourage, educate and engage the community in recycling.”

Keep America Beautiful is providing materials from its Waste in Place curriculum; its “I Want To Be Recycled” public service advertising campaign; Recycle-Bowl, its national in-school K-12 recycling competition; America Recycles Day and other resources as part of the overall programming to improve the in-school recycling rate.

View the Flint school-based recycling education program press conference here