Equilibrium & Sustainability

Sprite retiring iconic green bottle for more sustainable, clear version

In this Feb. 24, 2011 file photo, a worker inspects bottles of Sprite at a Coca-Cola bottling plant in Cibitung , West Java, Indonesia.
AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim, File
In this Feb. 24, 2011 file photo, a worker inspects bottles of Sprite at a Coca-Cola bottling plant in Cibitung , West Java, Indonesia.

Coca-Cola Co. announced on Wednesday that is is retiring Sprite’s iconic green bottle and replacing it with a more sustainable, clear one.

In a news release, the company announced the shift from the signature green color to the clear bottle will begin Monday.

The new bottles will use clear polyethylene terephthalate (PET), a strong, light plastic that is 100 percent recyclable. Although green Sprite bottles also use PET, they cannot be recycled into new bottles because of their color.

Coca-Cola’s entire portfolio of green bottles, including Fresca, Seagram’s and Mello Yello, will also transition to the clear PET in the near future.

Coca-Cola is working with the business R3CYCLE to enable more bottle-to-bottle recycling across the U.S.

Julian Ochoa, the CEO of R3CYCLE, said in a statement Wednesday that “taking colors out of bottles improves the quality of the recycled material.”

“This transition will help increase availability of food-grade PET,” Ochoa added. “When recycled, clear PET Sprite bottles can be remade into bottles, helping drive a circular economy for plastic.”

Coca-Cola on Wednesday also announced that a majority of its Dasani water bottles would transition for the first time to 100 percent PET plastic this summer.

The transition could save more than 20 million pounds of new plastic compared to 2019 and reduce more than 25,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

Dasani itself has made a pledge to cut out 2 billion virgin plastic bottles of production by 2027 compared to 2021 levels.

Plastic waste has continued to grow into a bigger and bigger problem, reaching 400 million tons every year, according to the United Nations. Of the 7 billion tons generated globally so far, less than 10 percent has been recycled, with much of it going into the environment.

In fact, the problem is so widespread that a recent study for the first time found microplastics in human blood.

Beverages are a huge part of the waste production. Across the globe, 1 million plastic bottles are purchased every minute, according to the U.N.

Oceana, the world’s largest advocacy organization dedicated to ocean conservation, told The Hill it does not believe the transition to PET would make a big difference to halt the flow of plastic in the world’s oceans.

Matt Littlejohn, Oceana’s senior vice president of strategic initiatives, said Coca-Cola is the world’s top plastic polluter and recycling PET would not change that fact.

“Recycled content pledges do not change consumer behaviors or improve bottle collection rates,” Littlejohn said in a statement. “Bottles with recycled content will still be thrown away, sent to landfills, or littered. Some of these bottles will still end up in our oceans.”

Littlejohn said if Coca-Cola wants to help, the company should “stop promoting single-use, throwaway plastic bottles and instead deliver on its commitment to sell more of its drinks in refillable bottles,” which are usually made of glass but rarely used in widespread production.

“By turning to refillables, the company can dramatically reduce plastic pollution because the bottles are returned and reused and will not be, as a matter of course, thrown away,” he said.

Earlier this month, The Hill reported that the Biden administration was weighing setting limits on the use of single-plastics, which typically cannot be recycled.

—Updated at 4:58 p.m.

Tags Plastic Plastic pollution Sustainability

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