April 23, 1970

Page 12814


Mr. MUSKIE. Mr. President, the successful achievement of the goals set by those participating in Earth Day will depend on commitments by private citizens, government agencies, and private corporations. One cannot act without the cooperation and support of the others.

I was particularly struck, this week, to read an eloquent address on the subject by J. Paul Austin, president of the Coca-Cola Co. Mr. Austin chose to speak to the Georgia Bankers Association on "Environmental Renewal or Oblivion? Quo Vadis?"' at a meeting in Atlanta, Ga., April 16.

Mr. Austin had something to say to all of us about the need for action to improve our natural and man-made environments, and he outlined some steps his company is taking to meet that need. I commend his remarks to the attention of the Senate, and ask unanimous consent that they be printed in the RECORD.

There being no objection, the address was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:


(An Address by J. Paul Austin)

I appreciate the invitation to speak to you Georgia Bankers, and I'm delighted to be with you.

Rather than invest my time today exploring some of the financial and economic pressures that face both of us – as bankers and businessmen – I would like, instead, to talk with you quite seriously about an even more pressing matter. This is one that involves us even more directly and far more personally, than matters of finance.

I'm talking about . . our environment. This is the most urgent problem any of us has right now ...not just as businessmen . . . but as human beings, as Americans who honestly care for this land of ours.

I do care about this country. And I'm concerned about what's happening to it.

My company shares this concern. And my purpose in speaking to you today is to publicly commit The Coca-Cola Company to active and honest programs which we sincerely believe will help reclaim – even renew – an environment which some say has already passed any point of possible return.

Most of us in this room have children. But, have we paused recently to reflect on the legacy we're creating for their generation? Have we thought much about the quality of the life they will enjoy – or be forced to endure – largely because of the decisions and acts you and I undertake ... or worse, fail to attempt . . . during this decade of the 70s?

Not long ago I realized that my sons will reach my age sometime late in the first decade of the twenty-first century. A realization like this can bring a man up short. If you share my concern for the happiness, the hope and well-being that all today's children will find in their world of tomorrow, I know you'll agree that it's about time we began doing more than merely hoping that the world we leave them will still be hospitable to man. The hard facts, the stark evidence of environmental homicide that's emerging today indicates with painful reality that my sons may not find this a hospitable home at all.

By the time they're my age – when they should be enjoying real fulfillment and meaningful satisfaction in life – there may be little left on this world to be satisfied with.

Last year when this country put two men on the moon, I found myself transfixed by the televised pictures of that incredibly barren lunar landscape. How cold and utterly dead it seemed. And then I wondered, could that bleak terrain, with no natural life stirring anywhere between the eye of the camera and a distant, pock-marked horizon – could that same desolation someday be the look of this world? Someday – no matter how far in the future – might we look like that to a pair of alien explorers from another star system?

And what if that were the grim prospect for the future of earth? Wouldn't at least some of our children – or, maybe, their children – look to the stars as the only alternative to death on a dying planet?

While we don't now see interplanetary migration as a serious possibility for future generations. I can't help wondering if migration might someday become the only acceptable alternative. No matter for how few . . . some may well prefer the uncertainties of space to the predictable death right here.

Is this an overstatement of the imperatives for cleaning up our world? I don't think so. After all, what has man always done after he leached the land and so thoroughly fouled his water that it was no longer tolerable? He picked up and moved. He has always been able to find another, more hospitable home on land that would grow lush crops – in a place where the streams hadn't yet been spoiled.

But man can move no more. Not on this world, anyway. Sure – there are the vast savannahs of the African wastes. And the perma-frost of barren Arctic reaches. There's still plenty of raw real estate around. But, until now, at least, man hasn't solved the problems of living on lands like these. That's why he's packed himself – and almost four billion like him – into only a fraction of Earth's total landmass. Perhaps that's also why he's submitted to the increasingly popular urge to rush, lemming-like, into the cities of his world. Already, we're told, over a fifth of the planet's entire population lives in cities of a hundred thousand or more.

Professor Kingsley Davis, one of the top authorities in the study of urban development, predicts that – if present trends continue – it will take only fifty-five years for everyone on Earth to be urbanized.

And that's frightening. Especially when you consider that within the lifetime of a child born this year – there will be some fifteen billion inhabitants on this incredibly delicate Earth.

So to add to the manifold problems of land waste, the prodigal depletion of both land and water, and the all-too-visible carbonization of our air . . . we must also add geometric multiples of human beings. Vast hordes of humanity which must somehow be fed, housed, employed and coped with by each other.

Already, in this country, we're hearing strange-sounding names of tomorrow's super cities. Boswash will be the sprawl down the eastern seaboard from Boston to Washington. Chipitts is destined to be a single over-industrialized behemoth embracing Chicago on the west and Pittsburgh on the east. And Sansan is the name proposed for California's contribution to urban insanity. Sansan, we're told by the experts, will run along the coast from San Francisco to San Diego.

And, as you know, the experts have usually been wrong in the past only when they underestimated the magnitude of future growth.

So, twenty-first century man may find himself faced with the necessity to colonize other planets if only because he's run out of room on this one. But, sadly, a glut of humanity is likely to be the least among his motivations to move.

Why? Simply because some of today's most eminent scientists are saying that the relatively few people on Earth right now are doing more than an adequate job of totally destroying their environment.

Even without another ten or twelve billion people, we're told we haven't much of a chance to survive, unless we make some dramatic commitments right now.

Who are these scientists? Who is behind all the environmental doomsday talk we're hearing today? And why are they seemingly going out of their way to get everybody all upset about the mess we're making of our environment?

There are two answers here. The scientists are ecologists. And they're shouting warnings at us because we're wasting our natural wealth ... because, they tell us, we have no inkling of the enormity of the problem we've created – or, perhaps even more importantly – the terrifying and unacceptable consequences of our ecological ignorance and irresponsibility.

Now, let's take these one at a time. First ecology. What, exactly, is it?

The word was first used a hundred years ago to define the interrelationship of everything to everything else in nature.

Example? The rain and sunlight help plants to grow. The plants – through photosynthesis – help renew the air. The air helps purify the water. And the water irrigates the plants.

Everything around us is tied together in a closed system of interdependence. It's called an "ecosystem" – the sum total of all the living and nonliving parts that support a chain of life within a selected area.

Left undisturbed, an ecosystem will continue to operate indefinitely ... with, as one of this country's top environmental scientists, Dr. Barry Commoner, puts it: "Everything connected to everything else." In fact, Dr. Commoner calls this simple equation "The First Law of Ecology."

Now, remember, undisturbed an ecosystem will continue to operate indefinitely. And there's the problem. Man hasn't – perhaps he can't – leave the system undisturbed.

The rewards of man's own system don't seem to allow a peaceful co-existence with nature. Or at least, man's attitudes and values he demonstrates everyday in seeking his rewards haven't operated in the best interests of his ecosystem!

Man is a doer. He's a road-builder, a housebuilder, a tree-cutter; an industrious, hardworking chap whose very industry determines the size of his rewards. And, being rather selfish – or, shall I say, operating in his own self-interest, anyway – this doer, this creature with the big brain has chopped and hacked and paved and built ... and polluted his way from one end of this once virgin land of ours to the other.

So why not? Isn't that the way things simply are? Nobody is known to have achieved commercial greatness in this society by whiling away his hours beside some pastoral pond, Thoreau to the contrary, not withstanding.

Really . . . isn't that the popular, no-nonsense attitude ... the industrialized heritage we've been taught since we were children? Yes, it is.

Hard driving free enterprise is a fine old tradition in this country. It's what's made this country what it is. So what is wrong with free-wheeling progress?

Maybe nothing is wrong with it but on the other hand, maybe the ecologists are trying to tell us something. They're telling us – in quiet, clear tones – that if we keep all this up, we're going to "advance" ourselves into oblivion. An oblivion comprised of undrinkable water and air that can't be breathed.

Listen to what they're saying. Think about some of the mid-twentieth century realities they're pointing out to us as we plunge headlong in pursuit of "progress."

They're telling us that, as a people, we're firing rockets at the moon – while standing knee deep in our own garbage.

They say man is the only creature in nature who, apparently with great foresight and planning, dumps that same garbage into his drinking water.

Researchers point out that right now – in the breasts of this country's young mothers – there is human milk containing from three to ten times more pesticide residues than the government will allow in cow's milk meant for human consumption.

Ecologists are disturbed over the decline and disappearance of whole species. Fish, fowl and other types of wildlife are finding it increasingly more difficult to adapt to an unnatural environment which rots fins and gills – an environment where unprecedented concentrations of death-dealing chemicals mutate the young.

And, recalling that first law of ecology – that everything is connected with everything else in nature – we're beginning to understand that there is no such thing as an isolated act.

Large amounts of pesticides – not merely traces – are found today in the freezing waters of Antarctica where none has ever been used before.

It is said that this country alone is clearing, paving and – if you still buy the term"improving"– some three thousand acres a day. Plants and trees on these once-lush tracts are lost forever. They're oxygen producers, remember. And some very responsible scientists are expressing real fear that, if this wholesale land improvement continues at our present rate for a few more years, there won't be enough oxygen in either the air or the sea to sustain life.

Now, you know why I am so upset about environmental pollution. However, let me be even more specific.

I'm concerned . . . because you and I are killing each other, and I'm deadly serious when I say that. Unless you and I and every other responsible American – especially those who guide the policies of our major corporations and those who sit in the halls of our councils, legislatures and the Congress – unless all of us begin immediately to reverse the processes of impending self-destruction which we have set in motion – this green land of ours will become a graveyard!

The youth of this country know what the stakes are. They're upset. And they're indignant over our apparent unconcern. Whole student populations are engaging in protests and demonstrations against those who compound their transgressions of pollution with an abysmal ignorance of man's responsibility to his environment.

Why? Because it's their world we're wasting. And, to put it mildly, they don't like it a bit!

There's a nationwide "Environmental teach-in" planned for the twenty-second of this month – just six days from now. On that day – on over a thousand college and university campuses all over America – lecturers, seminars, demonstrations and discussions will be devoted entirely to the preservation of our environment.

This sort of thing hasn't happened before. Not on this scale. Not with the planning, organization and thought that's been put into this collegiate effort to enlighten and illuminate.

And I commend our young people for their awareness and perspicacity. They have done all of us a service by pushing the panic button.

But what are we going to do – now that we have some idea of the magnitude of the problems that face us?

The President of the United States – in his State of the Union message to the Congress last January – called for a broad federal program designed to help clean up our land, air and water. He has since proposed legislation which would implement parts of this mammoth program. And this is not a bad beginning. But that's really all it is. 

The government can't solve our problem. The government has been trying to do something about pollution and environmental decay since the first administration of Teddy Roosevelt

The people, though, can do something. And it will take the best effort of every individual and corporate citizen to do what must be done.

Of course, there are the "doomsdayers" who say nothing will prevent "ecocide"the death of the environment. Others claim that, since ecological destruction is so intimately linked with over-population and over-production, the only answer is a zero population increase and a stable Gross National Product. And it may be that they're right.

But, before ultimate measures such as these are imposed on us, shouldn't we at least attempt some determined solutions of our own?

I'm convinced we must! And the Corporate Policies of The Coca-Cola Company reflect our commitment to employ substantial technological, financial and human resources as a responsible corporate citizen.

In setting our policy and stating our commitment, The Coca-Cola Company accepts a dual responsibility.

We acknowledge and accept the responsibility for having been a limited contributor to the problems in the past. But, at the same time, the Company accepts the responsibility to set its own house in order.

Those aren't mere high-sounding pleasantries to be forgotten orignored by this time tomorrow. Those are commitments! Commitments to be met while discharging our responsibility to our stockholders to operate our business at a reasonable profit level.

As you know, we manufacture the syrups which our Bottlers mix with water to make soft drinks. Water – good, clean, potable, unpolluted water: it's vital to the operation of our business.

For almost half a century, we've been studying the water in this country and in the one hundred thirty-five other countries where our products are sold. We know what's happening to water.

That's why it's standard practice for Coca-Cola Bottling Plants to filter water before it's mixed with syrup and bottled or canned.

So – we're not entirely altruistic in our approach to the preservation of our environment. We freely admit that the profit motive and the desire to remain in business has prayed a major role in the decision to commit ourselves to the cause of environmental renewal.

Very well, what are we doing to fulfill that commitment?

First let's talk about cleaning up our air and water.

The Coca-Cola Company has been involved in its own programs of environmental renewal for a long time now. And over a year ago we began looking for a way to get into the business of pollution control, itself, through merger with a leading firm in this field.

Now, The Coca-Cola Company expects to enter the business of pollution control, itself, through an agreement to merge with The Aqua-Chew Company of Milwaukee. This anticipated merger represents a substantial investment for us – about one hundred fifty million dollars.

Aqua-Chew is the world's leading manufacturer of "packaged" steam and hot water generating systems – systems which produce no toxic effluent or airborne pollution of any kind and which require no smoke stack.

As a result of their leadership and experience in making these generating and heating systems, Aqua-Chew found it a natural progression to the fume-free incinerator. Like their generating systems, this unusual incinerator gives off no smoke, no fumes and no odors.

There's an experimental unit on test in one of our mid-western cities right now. And assuming this test proves successful – the Aqua-Chew Company may be on the way to offering a large, commercial incinerator that will provide both pollution-free disposal and a source of energy created by the intense heat that's generated during the total combustion process.

In addition to these advances in pollution control, Aqua-Chew is also a leader in the development and production of water desalination and purification equipment.

Just recently a true breakthrough was made by the Company. It's the discovery of a new application for a process called "reverse osmosis." This special application is still in the developmental stage.

But, with this revolutionary process – which may take Aqua-Chew into a whole new area of its basic business – the company should be able to produce economical water purification devices for both industrial and consumer applications.

There may be a small, compact model for the kitchen of the home – as well as huge tanks of gallons of clear, pharmaceutically clean water a day.

Now it is possible for industry to clean its waste water – not only efficiently and inexpensively, but even at a profit!

One test installation is in a Wisconsin paper mill where, as you can imagine, the effluent from manufacturing is highly polluted. But, by purifying this effluent, the mill is able to recapture chemicals used in the making of paper. It costs the mill $100 a day to operate the water purification equipment, but they recoup $500 a day in reusable chemicals. Instead of dumping syrupy, brown water into a nearby river and, eventually, into Lake Michigan, the mill is now discharging water that's so pure you can drink it!

When you introduce profits into pollution control, you radically change the environmental equation.

Most legislatures and the Congress have shown a degree of leniency in dealing with pollutors up to now. But I don't think any of us doubts that stronger legislation is bound to come. And, if industry can both conform to the requirements of new laws – and earn a profit in the bargain – it would seem to be just good business to anticipate these changes.

In fact, with profit incentives to clean up their industrial effluents, it may well become indefensible for companies to corrupt their environments.

But the manufacture of devices to control air and water pollution isn't the main business of The Coca-Cola Company.

Our main business is soft drinks. We're also in the coffee, tea, orange juice and food business through divisions of our Company. And recently we completed a comprehensive study of all our operations in the United States to determine where and how we were contributing to pollution . . . of any kind. This study, by the way, was initiated by the Company over two years ago.

Our Corporate goal – and a priority that's right at the top of our list – is to stop any form of pollution ... anywhere it exists in our entire Company . . and to stop it as fast as money and technology will allow.

But let me tell you briefly what we discovered in our study – and what we're doing about our findings

Our Foods Division produces citrus products – orange juice and others – along with coffee.

And our study showed that – in our coffee roasting plants – there is smoke and odor being generated.

We're going to eliminate these entirely.

In our citrus operations in Florida, we found that so-called "weak wastes" from washing down our equipment was a potential problem. So we've asked one of Aqua-Chew's top engineers to study the situation and find a way for us to use some of their technology to clean up the problem.

Incidentally, we recently received a Gold Medal Award from The Sports Foundation – a non-profit membership association dedicated to conservation in the interest of outdoor sports. Our award recognized the contribution to conservation that's being made by an elaborate water treatment system we operate in one of our Florida citrus processing plants. In addition, we are continuing to cooperate with state water quality control engineers in order to utilize more sophisticated pollution control technology to further insure that all operations at this plant, and other similar plants, will meet existing regulations and exceed them, if possible.

In our Tenco Division, we produce instant tea and coffee.

In our coffee operations, we even use the "spent" coffee ground as fuel to generate heat and power for the plant. And we use after-burners for total combustion of the gasses coming off the roasting ovens.

But once we've extracted the tea from our tea leaves, we dispose of them in a private, sanitary land fill. This is the proper and recommended way to do it, but we think there may be a way to liberate nutritive values from the "spent" leaves. If there is, we may be able to come up with a new component for cattle feed.

In our domestic soft drink division, CocaCola USA, we find that virtually the only effluent from our operations is in the airborne exhausts of our trucks and other vehicles.

While there isn't now an efficient device to eliminate lead and hydrocarbon emissions from the internal combustion engine, I can pledge that – as soon as one is developed – this Company will lead the way in putting it on our entire corporate fleet. Our franchised bottlers will willingly follow our lead.

At this moment, over ninety percent of all our Company-owned bottling plants are recycling both glass and paper waste material. Paper, of course, is used in the cartons, can wraps and other packaging that surrounds our glass and cans in shipment and on dealers' shelves. Ninety percent of our own plants are returning glass and paper to manufacturers for re-use.

Ninety-five percent of the bottling plants owned by The Coca-Cola Company are recycling the old crankcase oil that's drained from our trucks. The oil, too, is returned to the manufacturer – the refining company – for purification and re-use. This means that we don't dump it down a drain where it could add to the pollution of rivers and streams.

It's a fact of our corporate life that soft drinks must be put in some form of container before they can be distributed, sold and consumed.

Soft drinks are packaged in several types of containers: returnable and one-way glass bottles – and in cans made of various materials. And, because the glass, aluminum and steel used in our containers are rather sturdy materials – and because the brightly colored decoration on a can or the unique shape of our bottle doesn't deteriorate as readily as paper containers – the packaging for our products is highly visible.

As a result, we're criticized more than many other manufacturers. But there's evidence – from a recent survey of the roadside debris in twenty-nine states – that soft drink containers account for only about five percent of the total highway litter. This study – conducted by the Highway Research Board, the National Research Council and the National Academy of Sciences – disclosed that only three percent of the litter was comprised of soft drink cans and only two percent was soft drink bottles.

So, even if there were no such thing as the soft drink industry, it appears that we'd still have ninety-five percent of the litter problem we're faced with now.

But we don't deny that the bright red can and the familiar bottle are a part of the problem. And we've been taking steps designed to reduce their numbers in places where they don't belong.

In fact, back in the mid-60s, when it became clear that consumers would demand more and more convenience – and that nonreturnable, "convenience" packaging would become an increasingly large part of our total market – we began an intensive program to study the problem of litter and what we could do to help minimize our contribution to the problem.

In 1966 we assigned a senior executive of The Coca-Cola Company to learn more about litter and to formulate ways we could help hold it in check.

What have we learned? What are we doing?

Well, for one thing, we've learned that litter probably won't be reduced appreciably until the consumer has a greater awareness of the problem and his part in it.

So, our Company, other members of the soft drink industry and the manufacturers of the containers we use are right now launching a major effort to inform the consumer and, hopefully to motivate him to do his part in helping reduce the volume of litter.

Here are two specific examples of this co-operative effort to inform and motivate the consumer.

First – can manufacturers are right now underwriting a sizeable re-tooling expense which will result in the tops of all our cans being embossed with the message, "Please don't litter – dispose of properly."

It's our hope that consumers – seeing this request as they enjoy our products – will do as we ask and dispose of the container properly.

One can manufacturer has even mounted a major recycling program for its used containers.

And what about one-way bottles?

The Coca-Cola Company has created special advertising for several parts of the country which seeks to promote the sale of returnable bottles.

Since one-way bottles carry no deposit value, these are the glass packages most frequently thrown away by the consumer.

The thrust of this special advertising asks the question, "Wouldn't you rather borrow our bottle than buy it?" And I think this sort of appeal – tied to economy and value – should help reduce the number of one-way glass bottles that wind up as litter.

Even so, cans and one-way bottles comprise only about thirty percent of our Company's total sales of packaged soft drinks. That's in this country. Abroad, our products are sold almost exclusively in returnable bottles.

The returnable bottle built our business. And most returnables still do return.

At any given time, something over ninety percent of all the returnable bottles leaving our bottling plants do come back. However, this figure does vary from market to market. And the return of our bottles depends heavily on consumer and retailer cooperation.

And even though it's far more economical for consumers to buy our products in these returnable packages, some of our dealers – supermarkets and convenience stores – find it more desirable to handle one-way bottles and cans.

And, as I've already said, we're well aware of the demand by many consumers for convenience. That's why we refer to nonreturnable containers as "convenience" packages. There's no deposit on them and consumers don't have to bring them back to the store.

But there's an even larger issue here. It's the issue of solid waste disposal and the degradability of containers.

Glass and cans are not degradable. Some cans will eventually oxidize, but even then, the materials of which they're made don't return to nature as realistically re-usable resources. And there aren't any serious prospects for truly degradable soft drink containers. Not now, anyway. But we are working on this and we have a number of research teams attacking this problem of degradability.

In the meantime, we're trying still another approach to the disposal of one-way bottles. This involves a special grinding apparatus which we recently had made for use in conducting an unusual test.

This test is already underway with a unique device which grinds up glass containers. Two of these units are in place at a supermarket in one of Atlanta's large shopping centers. Consumers bring their one-way glass containers with them when they come to shop. These containers then will be ground up by the machines.

The ultimate?

Sand. It isn't quite fine enough – or highly polished enough – to be used in playgrounds yet. But we're working on improvements to the process which may eventually enable us to make safe, inexpensive playground sand out of bottles.

Meanwhile, this material has several other applications.

One is in the manufacture of asphalt. It's a perfect matrix material. It's cheap, reasonably consistent in size, and it can be produced in plentiful quantities.

Roads made from old bottles? It's more than just possible.

One more thing on packaging: We've been working for some time now with a leading chemical company in experiments with a plastic bottle. This innovative package has only now gone into some limited consumer testing. But it may be that – within a few years – we'll be able to offer consumers a soft drink container that can be incinerated without giving off any noxious gas, fumes or smoke in the process.

So, you see ... we are working at it. We've been working at it for years. We were involved in our own anti-pollution programs long before it became a fashionable or expedient cause to espouse. Again, what have we been doing?

Trying to find new ways for this Company to serve the best interests of our environment ... new ways to prevent our contributing any further to the problems of pollution ... new ways to more responsibly share in the task of environmental renewal that's ahead.

But no Company-no matter how large or influential – can do more than share in this task. I believe this Company is doing its share in attacking the problems of our environment. And we're glad to see other responsible companies joining us in this effort.

But, more than just the corporations of this country, each of us ... as individuals must commit himself and actively get involved in the massive job that's ahead.

We can no longer accommodate the selfish acts and unthinking environmental waste of which each of us is guilty. We have to change! And this may well require – even demand – some basic revisions in our traditional attitudes. But, whatever it takes, we must require it of ourselves ... and, if necessary ... enforce it with others.

That's what I was talking about when I said earlier that, for The Coca-Cola Company, this is a time of meaningful commitment. We are responsibly policing our own acts, and – through both our leadership and our innovation – we hope to join forces with all those who share our determination that this world shall not become just another lifeless planet.

For the only alternative to commitment and intelligent action now may be the possibility of extinguishing ourselves through ignorance and indifference.

And no matter what future technology may give us – even the ability to colonize among the stars – I still want my sons and yours to enjoy their lives right here ... and to remember that we acted responsibly to insure the well-being of their and all future generations.

But, I cannot conclude without pointing out the bright prospect that shines through the dark cloud. We are a nation of optimists, and even in this dim perspective, there is an overriding potential benefit that we can reap.

Several years ago, a major publication asked a number of historians and social scientists to define the national purpose of the United States. The conclusion reached was most unhappy: i.e., that we don't have a national purpose except in time when we are in a world war.

However, today the facts have changed. Environmental control offers a national purpose. Pollution is the sole common danger that confronts us all ... spares no one, no institution, or individual . . . is recognized by every segment of our society ... and can unite us all in a common goal.

There is no political spectrum here ... no color line . . no generation gap . . no public-private sector conflict . .. no urban-rural clash ... no "haves" and "have nots" ... no doves and hawks in this issue. We share this fragile issue braided together. Thus saving our environment can give us a national purpose. It is the one crisis, the unique challenge ... that can knit this nation together again. It can give us a vital national goal ... give us all a new sense of purpose, of sharing and of accomplishment.

It is the absolute crisis that demands the total support of young and old ... of people and government . . of management and labor ... of small town and metropolis . . . of black and white. It knows no politics. The stakes are high, but the rewards are not only the physical survival of the species but also the spiritual renewal of the nation.

We must begin now. We must begin together. There is no place to hide.