Recycling a classic
What makes Coca-Cola Classic a refreshingly sustainable beverage and why I'm proud to be native to Atlanta.
Monday, March 29, 2010 - 21:24
As a native Atlantan and Southern belle at heart, I've limited my consumption of carbonated beverages strictly to Coke products. The odd truth of the matter is that I refer to any effervescent liquid simply as "Coke," not "soda" or "pop," but simply "Coke" — despite that it may actually be something quite different indeed. This may, in part, explain why Coke has become the most recognized trademark in the world. My simple preference for Coke transforming into undeniable brand loyalty might perhaps be associated with the blessing of growing up in the birthplace of this bubbly, syrupy delight. I now fully expect to see that infamous Coca-Cola red in restaurants, grocery stores, vending machines ... you name it! I would even go so far as to say founder John Pemberton is an idol of mine, but this may in part be due to the fact that he is solely responsible for my daily dose of caffeine.
However, like many of us loyal to Mother Nature, I also question the environmental and social impact of all large corporations — particularly those for which I have developed an affinity. After a much anticipated visit to the new and improved World of Coke in February, the wheels in my head started to turn, and thus my research began. A product that is served in over 195 countries, 705 million times per day, has to have a vast global impact, so I wondered, how do they recognize sustainability? I was aware that they were opposed to littering, as it notes "don't litter" on the rim of the aluminum cans, but is that enough? Of course not. So, I dug deeper.
The Coca-Cola Company has several committees strictly devoted to partnering environmental leadership with a growing corporation. These include the Environment & Water Resources Department, the Environmental Advisory Board (EAB) and the Coca-Cola Environmental Council. Together, these groups complete water risk assessment, water protection programs, global packaging regulations, as well as establishing Community Water Partnerships (more than 120 in existence). The advisory board, comprised of experts from both non-profit and international governmental organizations, focuses on the overall analysis of the company's environmental policies and performance. These are excellent in terms of keeping up appearances, but my lingering question is, where's the tangible evidence of progress?
That leads me to the cold, hard facts. Coca-Cola North America has not only improved its water use efficiency by eight percent since 2004, but is the most efficient in the global Coca-Cola system, with a 2007 average of 2.6 billion gallons of water saved through reduction efforts. The company partners in these efforts with WWF, CARE, UNDP and USAID to help protect and preserve water resources in 50 countries.
Furthermore, their packaging philosophy is revolutionary. They have proudly developed a four-part strategy to eliminate all waste over the entire life of the packaging. It begins with the significant reduction in materials used to create all aluminum cans, glass and plastic bottles. Secondly, the plastic bottles (introduced in 2009 and with vitamin water in 2010) are now made from 30 percent renewable plant-based material and is known simply as the "PlantBottle," which does not contain non-renewable petroleum like traditional PET bottles.
The next crucial step is the recovery process, during which time Coke recovers 35-40 percent of its bottles and cans (with a long-term goal of 100 percent) through post-consumer recovery programs to be sold in their business system. Last is the step regarding reusing the product. Coke is currently funding six bottle-to-bottle recycling plants, including the world's largest in Spartanburg, S.C., as well as funding the development of plastic recycling technologies.
The last highlight, and possibly the most crucial, is what The Coca-Cola Company is doing to reduce its carbon footprint. It is certainly leading in the beverage industry with developing and implementing HFC-free refrigeration technology. This new technology will assist in generating 75 percent fewer direct greenhouse gas emissions as well as completely eliminating the use of HFC, which is an extremely potent greenhouse gas. In addition, Coke's new CO2 refrigerant technology (for coolers and vending machines) puts to use a natural refrigerant gas that's climate-friendly. The combination of the CO2 refrigerant and the elimination of HFC successfully elminates 99 percent of direct greenhouse gas emissions. As if it couldn't get any better, the intelligent energy management system used in the coolers delivers an energy savings of 35 percent!
This serves as a brief taste of the environmental practices developed and put into operation by The Coca-Cola Company, and I encourage you to not only visit the website for more sustainable details, but to research the environmental practices of your favorite brands, and in the case that they're not up to speed with the eco-revolution, I would strongly encourage you to write to a company representative as a brand loyalist on what simply isn't acceptable. After all, green is the new black.
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