Coke Leaves Out Key Details in Sustainability Claims

55px-Coca-cola_50cl_white-bg.jpgCoca-Cola recently opened a new “bottle-to-bottle” recycling plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina, and touts the plant as the “largest one in the world.” Coinciding with the plant’s opening, the company has a marketing initiative called “Give it Back” to promote recycling. A 30 second advertisement says, “If you’ve had a Coke in the last 40 years, you’ve played a part in one of the largest beverage recycling efforts in the world.” Coca-Cola also has a $10 million marketing initiative to promote health and wellness.
Coca-Cola’s advertisements leave out some key facts concerning the company’s environmental impact and the sustainability of its products. Coca-Cola makes bottled water (Dasani water) and soft drinks. Dasani water comes packaged in plastic containers, as do many of Coca-Cola’s soft drinks. The independent think tank, the Pacific Institute (PI), estimates that “the energy used for pumping and processing, transportation, and refrigeration, brings the annual fossil fuel footprint of bottled water consumption in the United States to more than 50 million barrels of oil, equivalent-enough to run 3 million cars for one year.”

It takes about 3.4 megajoules of energy to produce a one-liter plastic bottle, cap and packaging, according to PI, and to make 31.2 billion liters it takes 106 billion megajoules of energy. PI further estimates that the equivalent of over 17 million barrels of oil is needed to produce the plastic liter bottles.
The “carbon footprint” of plastic bottles is very high. Every ton of plastic manufactured, produces about three tons of carbon dioxide. The Climate Change Corp reported in November that in 2007 Coca-Cola emitted 4.92 metric tons of carbon dioxide, which increased 0.06 metric tons from 2006.
Soft drinks linked to obesity and other health problems
Coca-Cola’s advertisements also fail to mention the link between sugary soft drinks and obesity. The most popular “food” item in the U.S. is soda, according to an AP article last year. During the twenty year period from 1977 to 1997, the consumption of soft drinks increased to 60 percent (among adults), and more than doubled among children. Obesity also doubled during the same time period.
Many studies linked consuming soft drinks to obesity. A study of 548 Massachusetts children, conducted by Ludwig, suggested that for every sweet drink consumed a day, the chances of obesity increased 60 percent.
A study at Rutgers University in 2007 discovered that beverages containing fructose corn syrup have “high levels of reactive carbonyls, a free radical linked to tissue damage, the development of diabetes, and the occurrence of diabetes complications.”
Dr. Michael Thun of the American Cancer Society favors putting warning labels on soft drinks. “I think it would be a good candidate for a warning…It’s something that should be seriously considered.”

Gina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by