Coca-Cola Israel and other bottlers are trying to convince the Knesset to abolish deposits on beverage containers, according to the Israel Union for Environmental Defense.
The campaign has three main components, according to a letter the environmental group sent to Coca-Cola's international headquarters in Atlanta on February 20: a smear campaign in the press attempting to link bottle collection with "criminal elements"; an alternative draft bill relating to packaging of commercial goods; and expansion of the sidewalk network of voluntary recycling cages instead of improving deposit redemption facilities and accessibility, as required by law.
In the letter, the Union for Environmental Defense asked Coca-Cola headquarters to sanction the Israeli franchise.
The group says the franchise is actively undermining Israel's Beverage Container Recycling Law of 2001, known as the Deposit Law.
The environmental group says Coca-Cola Israel is lobbying Knesset members to end the deposit system or to lower recycling targets.
Because of such actions by bottlers, the group says, there is a lack of sufficient container return points and the public finds it ever more difficult to redeem deposits on cans and bottles.
A government-sponsored amendment to the 2001 Law is currently advancing through the Knesset. The bill would place responsibility for collection of containers directly upon the producers.
Coca-Cola Israel says the Union for Environmental Defense's statements are misleading and inaccurate. According to Coca-Cola Israel's spokesman, the company "abides by all its responsibilities with regard to the operation of the current Deposit Law."
Along with other Israeli beverage manufacturers, Coca-Cola Israel "supports the implementation of effective recycling schemes and favors an approach which is workable but which does not place an unnecessary burden on the individual citizen," he said.
"The 'cages' placed in Israeli cities for the voluntary return of family sized bottles (1.5 liter) - without the burden of a deposit for the consumer - have proved successful," the spokesman said, adding that Coca-Cola Israel and other beverage manufacturers hope to increase this operation over the next 10 years.
In the United States, only nine out of 50 states have deposit laws, and in the last decade only Hawaii has implemented such a law, he said.
"It is unfortunate that respectable bodies such as the Israeli Union for Environmental Defense and the Environment Ministry have tried to promote a flawed and outdated system" instead of promoting more effective laws following approaches taken by other Western countries, the spokesman said.
Coca-Cola International says implementing a deposit/return system has a profound impact on bottlers' operations and on their customers. Such a system results in high operating costs, requires more capital equipment, infrastructure, labor and subsidies, and inconveniences retailers and customers, according to Coca-Cola.
A deposit/refund system is much less efficient than a comprehensive recycling program accepting many types of materials, the company says.
According to Coca-Cola, the cost per ton of material recycled is typically three times higher in a deposit system than in a comprehensive curbside program. Furthermore, a deposit system pulls the most valuable material (aluminum, glass and plastics) out of community programs, making them uneconomic.
Coca-Cola says compulsory deposit laws create an expensive, cumbersome system to manage a very small portion of the total waste stream.
Currently pay a 25 agorot deposit on each beverage container they buy under 1.5 liters.
Between October 2001 and May 2006, some 1.3 billion beverage containers were collected for recycling with the following return rates: 2.8 percent in 2001, 35.4% in 2002, 62% in 2003, 55% in 2004 and 61% in 2005. In December 2005, more than 28 million bottles were collected, constituting about 80% of the total quantity of beverage containers sold that month.