Coca-Cola which has often been criticized for alleged environment damaging practices,recently hit the headlines for its eco- friendly initiative. The brand would phase out its iconic green bottles for their beverages (Sprite, Fresca etc.)& bring in clear fill-ins instead. This re-brandingis projected as an environmental-friendly plunge. For, clear bottles have an improved recycling protocol which in turn is expected to reduce the firm’s plastic waste to the tune of 20 million pounds in the current year (compared to 2019)
Coca-Cola’s successful marathon, spanning over 60 years with its iconic green Sprite bottle, ended on 1st August, 2022. The transition to clear plastic bottles is expected to focus its ‘Green Strategy’, on Triple Bottom Line of Planet, People and Profits. The aim of its World without Waste initiative (2018) is to ensure that the entire packaging is recyclable and stop yearly use of 10000 tonnes of virgin plastic.
Use of clear soda bottle makes recycling easier, reducing plastic waste generation. “Taking colors out of bottles improves the quality of the recycled material. When recycled, clear bottles can be remade into bottles, helping drive a circular economy for plastic.”1 In environmental parlance, green plastic isn’t eco-friendly in packaging, as it impacts the environment. It contaminates the recycling stream and calls for segregation, leading to building the landfill heap.
Clear bottle facilitates availability of food-grade rPET.3“Recycling bottles does not mean they will not end up polluting the environment. This is because only 30% of bottles are recycled while the rest end up in landfills. That is still a small dent in the 3 million tons of plastic Coca-Cola uses each year.”3 From society point of view water consumption being very large for manufacturing the bottles also, effective strategies are needed for achieving water neutrality. Water, land and air pollution are major concerns of serious social impacts.
Green plastic is not commercially attractive to recyclers. “By making our bottles clear — a huge change for the brand — it makes them much more likely to go through the recycling system and come back to us as recycled PET.”2 The way to solve the problem of green use is by strategizing a refillable model and creating curb-side recycling and infrastructure. Coca-Cola aims to sell 25% of beverages in returnable bottles by 2030, investing $17 million for the infrastructure and consumer awareness & education campaigns. The company clearly committed to make 50% of its packaging through recycling by 2030.
Dumping green to ensure green is a thoughtful strategy. Green colour in packaging is neither eco-friendly nor commercially attractive to recyclers. In the light of global concerns and campaigns for eco-friendly supply chains, the initiative of choosing clear bottle is laudable. It is socially preferable in view of its benefits in reducing water, air and land pollution. However, creation of appropriate infrastructure calls for huge investments but they will certainly payback in the long run by way of profitable operations and societal advantages.
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Is Coca-Cola’s retiring of green bottles just a face saving exercise to blunt the criticism thatthe company is the world’s No. 1 plastic polluter? Why?
Identify the gaps in the revised strategy of Coca Cola to opt for clear bottles and possible ways to fill, in an eco-friendly way
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