CHARLOTTE, N.C. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) – Fans drank thousands of cans of Coca-Cola and other cold beverages at the Coca-Cola 600 back in May at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Now all those cans and bottles are being recycled locally in Charlotte.
Right now the cans are being processed at the new Envision Charlotte Innovation Barn in the Belmont Neighborhood. It’s no surprise the Innovation Barn is now filled with about 60,000 empty bottles and cans, given the Coca-Cola 600 is the longest event of the NASCAR season.
“That’s a lot of cans over there and bottles and it does smell like a fraternity in here, but yes it is a little overwhelming,” said Executive Director of Envision Charlotte, Amy Aussieker.
There are three dumpsters sitting in an open area of the Innovation Barn. Each one of the dumpsters holds about 20,000 cans. They came directly from Charlotte Motor Speedway after being sorted and separated on-site.
New this year the speedway partnered with Coca-Cola Consolidated to set up hundreds of recycling containers. The containers were actually barrels that were previously used to store syrup to make Coca-Cola products.
“Not only did they tell people to recycle, they helped them, they brought in resources to manage the whole thing so months of planning went into this,” said Aussieker.
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Plastic bottles were separated from aluminum cans at the track. Both recyclables were brought to the Innovation Barn where they are now being crushed and formed into bales.
It takes about 6,000 cans to make one bale, which weighs about 250 pounds. A processing company then purchases the bales.
“So it literally goes back in, gets shredded up and remade into new cans and bottles and goes right back to Coca-Cola Consolidated and back into new bottles,” said Aussieker.
The local recycling program got the green flag from Charlotte Motor Speedway as an innovative way to close the loophole involved with other recycling programs. Corporate-owned and operated recycling companies often take recyclables away from the Queen City.
“There is no control of where it goes. It may go to processing plants that make polyester for clothing rather than back into bottles,” said Aussieker.
Given the success of the program this year, it’s expected to continue in 2022. The plan was to start the program during the 2020 Coca-Cola 600, but no fans were allowed at the race due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.