New PepsiCo-Nature Conservancy partnership aims to increase recycling, protect drinking water O'Brien

Arizona’s Salt and Verde Rivers, which are the primary renewable water supply for two million people in Phoenix, are to benefit from a new partnership between PepsiCo and The Nature Conservancy.

As part of the ‘Recycle for Nature’ partnership, PepsiCo and The Nature Conservancy are joining forces to expand the availability of recycling bins in the US, while encouraging consumers to recycle more often to help protect drinking water sources throughout the country.

PepsiCo is supporting The Nature Conservancy’s efforts to protect drinking water in five key areas that supply water to more than 35 million people through some of the nation’s most populated and beautiful waterways.

Through this partnership, the Arizona chapter of The Nature Conservancy will continue its work to increase water flows in one of the state’s biggest watersheds, through solutions inspired by nature.

“The Nature Conservancy in Arizona has worked with farmers, communities, wood products businesses and others to find ways to protect, restore and conserve our waters,” said Pat Graham, state director of the Arizona chapter. “Recycle for Nature will enable us to further invest in projects to improve flows in the Verde River and restore forests that are susceptible to catastrophic wildfires that could impair our rivers and water supplies.” 

The Verde and Salt Rivers are the major source of fresh water for farmers, communities and businesses in a watershed larger than the state of Maryland. It provides water for communities from Prescott to Phoenix. 

“Protecting the flow in these rivers is critical to long-term water security,” Graham said. “The Conservancy has improved flows in 20 miles of the Verde River through partnerships and education, and we continue to make this critical water source a priority because of its biologically diverse ecosystem and because it provides so many communities with both drinking water and economic benefits. With this funding, we’ll continue our work with local farmers and other surface water users to help improve water management and conservation practices that keep the Verde healthy.”

The Conservancy’s Arizona chapter is also working with woodcutters to provide ecologically sound thinning of forests around critical rivers, which also helps conserve and protect water supplies. Thinning is a nature-based, strategic approach that uses innovative technology to protect forests and enhance water supplies. In recent years, Arizona has lost 25 percent of its ponderosa forests to high-severity fire because the forests are overgrown. Thinning helps reduce the occurrence of catastrophic fires that pollute the quality of water sources, and it also helps protect homes and lives.  

As a key component of Recycle for Nature, PepsiCo will expand the availability of recycling bins in the US, beginning where they are needed most — at gas stations and convenience stores. According to a PepsiCo national survey, 81 percent of Americans say they would recycle beverage containers at a retail location if proper bins were available. At away-from-home locations, recycling bins are available only 12 percent of the time. 

“Most consumers want to recycle when they’re away from home — there just aren’t enough convenient places to do it,” said Al Carey, CEO of PepsiCo Americas Beverages. “This is a huge opportunity that has been largely unaddressed until now. The easier we can make it to recycle, the more likely people are to recycle. By giving consumers the added incentive of helping protect our water sources, we can make an impact.” 

Mark R. Tercek, president and CEO of The Nature Conservancy, said, “As our population and economies grow, already-stressed water sources will face unprecedented pressure. Protecting the rivers that provide clean, reliable water for people and nature is one of the smartest investments that forward-thinking companies can make.”    

Recycle for Nature will provide consumers the chance to directly drive drinking water conservation efforts by recycling more often. For every one point increase in the US beverage container recycling rate each year, PepsiCo will make an additional donation to The Nature Conservancy with the goal of reaching up to $1 million total each year for five years. The goal is to save and restore one billion gallons of water over five years in rivers that supply water to more than 35 million people across nine states, including:  

This project is being done as part of PepsiCo’s collaboration with Walmart to increase recycling and investment in the Closed Loop Fund. The Fund is a program that will provide financing to municipalities and other organizations whose goal is to provide people access to recycling when and where they need it. PepsiCo is now tackling both on-the-go and curbside recycling as part of its goal to help drive the US beverage container recycling rate to 50 percent by 2018. The US beverage container recycling rate is currently at 42 percent according to the American Beverage Association. 

PepsiCo and The Nature Conservancy will kick off the partnership by expanding a pilot program that PepsiCo has been running in Tulsa, Okla., since 2012 in collaboration with Kum & Go convenience stores and gas stations. The goal for this near-term expansion is to drive a tenfold increase in the number of recycling bins in the area. Through its large presence in all 50 states and more than one million active members, the Conservancy will help raise awareness of recycling and increase recycling efforts in their local communities in partnership with PepsiCo.