Norvergence: Recently “Break Free from Plastic” an environment group named Coca-cola as the world’s largest polluter of plastics in a survey second year in a row. A company that sells 1.4 billion bottles each day in more than 200 countries, Coke is one of the leading producers of beverages in the world. Each of these bottles is made out of plastic. Invented in 1886 by confederate biologist John Pemberton, Coca-Cola has been named the world’s largest polluter of plastics in the survey by the environment group.
The company is said to be followed by PepsiCo and then Nestle. This report took almost 72,541 volunteers from 51 countries to collect plastic waste from around the world. In the process, around 43% of the waste was identified to be from leading brands. According to the report, Coke itself was solely responsible for almost 11,732 pieces of plastic waste found in almost 37 countries around the globe. The company is one of the biggest producers of plastic litter in Africa and Europe.
Norvergence: When Coke was first introduced in the year 1886, John Pemberton, the founder, had made many health claims for his product, touting it as a “valuable brain tonic” that would cure headaches, relieve exhaustion, and calm nerves, and marketed it as “delicious, refreshing, pure joy, exhilarating”, and “invigorating”.
However, more than a century later several studies and research on the cola drink have found that regular consumption leads to diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity etc. The shiny red eye-catching logo draws in our attention as we are given a promise of “happiness” in a bottle. However, today the popular drink associated with youth brand is a source of a gargantuan plastic problem.
Norvergence: Earlier, during ‘50s coke had a deposit system for their glass bottles. One had to deposit a paltry sum as coke wanted to reuse their expensive glass bottles. All this took a 360-degree turn with the introduction of plastic.
Today a cerulean bright mountain grows in the middle of a city consisting of plastic bottles. This city could be any city in the world. There are mountains of plastic waste, rivers and oceans of plastic waste floating in the environment as we speak. Studies have shown that around 22 billion plastic water bottles are discarded each year in which large portion is released into the ocean, which in turn results in a release of toxic chemicals like BPA into the water resulting in life-threatening diseases.
Out of which coke has admitted to being a contributor of over 3 million tons of plastic every year. The company over the years has embraced the cheapest possible production model at the cost of environment and public health. It has been able to keep its distribution low by exploiting local water resources. The company with its different sub-brands is not only a soda brand but also sells water.
Norvergence: The company is said to have wreaked major water scarcity trouble with their soda industry units. In India alone, the company produces more than 860,000 bottles per day. According to a study it takes about 150-300 litres of water to manufacture half a litre of Coca-Cola. This results in a major drain on local resources. Coca-cola has been ordered to shut down their industrial units in Kerala, Varanasi, as well as in Hapur that was said to be in violation of multiple environmental regulations such as untreated discharge of wastewater into local water bodies used for agricultural purposes.
Many of the bottling sites after years of shutting down still have not recovered the groundwater level. Despite coke starting an environmental campaign “A world without waste”, creating “plant bottle” which is said to be 30% plant-based recyclable bottles, sponsoring ocean clean-ups yet the company’s overall impact on the health of our environment is devastating.
Norvergence: Coke remains one of the leading opponents of the deposit system for glass bottles and is still clinging to the mass plastic production model. This acts as a Band-Aid on a bullet wound. It makes little difference. Until companies such as Coca-cola don’t shift their perspective from a capitalist consumerist business production model the mountains, rivers and seas of plastic will be there choking our planet.
Written by: Anku Sharma