When it comes to reducing plastic waste, and the damaging emissions associated with producing those plastics, change has to happen on a mass scale. The largest corporations should be leading the charge, and we’ve seen some incremental improvements on the sustainability front: Burger King is weighing reusable packaging, Starbucks is testing compostable coffee cups, and today, the Coca-Cola Company has announced via press release that it will debut new bottles made from 100% recycled plastic (rPET) materials.
Let’s get one nitty-gritty clarification out of the way: the cap and label on the bottle are not included in that “100%” figure; presumably those are still made of new plastics. But this is a good first step nonetheless, and it’s part of a larger set of innovations that Coca-Cola hopes will reduce emissions and encourage customers to think about the environment while they’re consuming the product. Coke, Sprite, and Fanta will be packaged in the 100% rPET bottles starting in February, with DaSani and other beverages to follow later this year. (Sprite, usually in a green bottle, will switch to clear plastic to make it more conducive to recycling.)
The company is also rolling out a new “sip-sized bottle” made from 100% rPET and containing only 13.2 ounces of soda, as opposed to the typical 16.9-oz. and 20-oz. bottles. The press release notes that this bottle is “conveniently sized in a more sippable package while reducing our use of new plastic.” As someone who always buys the larger bottles at gas stations while on road trips and can never quite finish the last bit of soda before it goes flat, I can definitely see the appeal of a smaller bottle.
Additionally, the rPET bottles will feature a “Recycle Me Again” message on the label, which Coca-Cola hopes will “inspire people to take action and recycle their bottles so that they can be remade into new ones.” Much like warning signs on cigarette packs, this strikes me as the sort of consciousness-raising tactic that probably only speaks to the people who were already conscious of such things—but there’s certainly no harm in trying to reach people this way.
The new lineup of 100% rPET bottles, and the introduction of the smaller bottles, will “[reduce] the use of new plastic... in North America by more than 20% from a 2018 baseline,” notes the press release. “It is estimated this effort in the United States represents a 10,000 metric ton reduction in GHG emissions annually - equivalent to taking 2,120 cars off the road for one year.”
The company aims to have 50% recycled materials in all its bottles and cans by 2030. Coca-Cola is now on the clock—so let’s hold this corporation accountable and make sure it meets (or exceeds!) that goal.