If you’re anything like me, then you are one of the millions of people who have dug through your local convenience store’s selection of Coke bottles, attempting to find the one with your name slapped on the label as part of Coca-Cola’s Share a Coke campaign. While emotions range from elation to disappointment, depending on the results of your search; the company recently revealed a new bottle design that’s almost as exciting as finding “Sarah with an H.”
Coca-Cola showed off the latest version of its iconic eco-friendly bottle earlier this month, called the PlantBottle. The latest design uses 100% sugarcane plastic, making it fully biodegradable. First introduced in 2009, and originally composed of 30% plant-based plastic, the PlantBottle is an innovative step for Coca Cola, as it plans to replace all of its current plastic bottles with plant-based ones by 2020.
Increasing demand from consumers, and an emphasis from government officials, have helped expedite recent green improvements to plastic bottles. Yet recycling rates are still low (31% in 2012 according to the EPA), making greener bottles a moot point if no one is recycling them. Some argue that bottling companies should simply abandon plastics altogether, especially when it comes to bottled water. Coca-Cola (owner of DASANI), faces enormous pressure because of its bottled water products. While a scarce resource in many parts of the world, most citizens in developed countries are constantly within slurping distance of tap water, making bottled water exceedingly unnecessary and wasteful. And bottled water skeptics are quick to point out the enormous price difference between whats in the bottle and what comes out of the tap (bottled water is 300x more expensive!). On top of that, a simple search of “Ocean Plastic” on YouTube will bring up some eye-opening results.
The problem is that plastic made from petroleum, in the conventional method, carries a large footprint with it, and it persists for decades in landfills and oceans alike. The issue is especially rampant today, considering only one in six bottles is successfully recycled. This has led to a growing number of advocates who protest the actions of bottling companies, especially in drought-ridden California. One could argue that Coca-Cola’s actions are a direct response to these protests, as other companies have made steps to green up their image with PlantBottle plastics. The technology is currently being used in Heinz ketchup bottles, plastic cups at SeaWorld and test models of Ford hybrids. Nike and Procter & Gamble have also worked in collaboration with Coca-Cola to role out PlantBottle packaging to its wide stable of products.
The demand from consumers for environmentally-friendly products, plastic and beyond, is slowly being met. Yet some of the responsibility needs to be placed on American consumers, as we collectively produce more plastic trash than other countries. Littering is all too common on city streets and rural roads, waterways often serve as gathering places for trash, and health problems have arisen for humans and animals alike. While there is much to be said about the negative impact of plastic bottles on our planet, it is has become as much of our daily lives as waking up and getting ready for work.
Alternatives to plastic bottles certainly exist, but for the foreseeable future it will be on the consumer to make the effort to recycle them. Coke is taking a major step in improving its current products, which is certainly a win for everybody, and may just be what is needed to bottle up our plastic problem.