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Coke's March towards Zero Waste

Posted by: Jessie Scanlon on May 14, 2009

This morning, Coca-Cola took another step toward its long-term goal of producing zero waste with the announcement of a new plastic bottle made partially from sugar cane and molasses. The so-called PlantBottle will be a blend of PET (the petroleum-based material used in most plastic bottles) and up to 30% of the plant-based material, and will be hit shelves in select markets later this year, initially carrying Dasani water.

The bottle is fully recyclable and uses less PET, a non-renewable resource. According to a life-cycle analysis done by Imperial College of London, manufacturing bottles with 30% plant material reduces carbon emissions by 25%. And importantly, unlike PLA – a corn-derived bio-plastic developed by Dow Chemical -- the PlantBottle can be recycled in existing facilities for no additional cost or complexity.

Coca-Cola won’t share the cost of producing the PlantBottle or say how it compares to the cost of producing 100% PET bottles, but company spokeswoman Judith Snyder does say that, given the volatile price of petroleum, the company “believes that the cost of the plant-based material in the “PlantBottle” will be more stable over the long term.”

Coca-Cola has a long way to go before it reaches zero-waste, but it is pushing ahead on multiple fronts. This year, in addition to the PlantBottle, Coca-Cola opened a “bottle to bottle” recycling plant in Spartanburg, SC, that will produce roughly 100 million pounds of recycled PET annually, enough to produce 2 billion 20-oz. Coke bottles. And in January, the company awarded Michigan State University’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources $400,000 to help establish the Center for Packaging Innovation and Sustainability. While it would be nice to see the largest beverage company on the planet pony up more than six figures for innovations in packaging, Coca-Cola should be commended for its holistic approach and for seeking out ways to lessen its environment impact at every stage of the supply chain.



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