Americans just love soda. Since the 1970s, daily soft drink consumption has tripled. Americans now drink over 13 billion gallons of carbonated drinks each year. According to the National Soft Drink Association (NSDA), it averages out to around two 12-oz soft drinks each day for every man, woman and child in the US. With numbers that high, soft drinks have got to be doing something serious to our waist – and waste – lines.
Let’s start with some facts about soft drink containers. About 45 percent of Aluminum cans are recycled each year (down from 68 percent in 1992), 31 percent of PET plastic bottles, and 25 percent of glass bottles. And this is at the same time that consumption is increasing. To put it another way, 55 percent of soda cans are made from virgin aluminum, 69 percent from non-recycled (but recyclable) plastic, and 75 percent of bottles are made with new glass. We’ve got a lot of waste going on here, and not a lot of recovery. At the same time, these manufacturing processes are using immense amounts of energy and fresh water just to create the soda container.
And don’t forget the wrappers on the outside of bottles, the plastic 6-pack rings, the cardboard cases, the energy used to transport the products, etc. Then you’ve got your garbage from soda fountains (plastic straws, lids, unrecyclable cups). The list goes on.
Now, we’ll get to the good stuff, the reason we continue to drink soft drinks, the delicious, dangerous, and possibly addicting liquid inside. The first ingredient in soda is plain ‘ole water. In fact, it takes about 2.5 liters of water to make 1 liter of soda. In 2006 Coca-Cola alone used up 80 billion gallons of water for use in its manufacturing of soda (including the water used for the soda itself, the manufacturing process, and the growing of ingredients). I might be going out on a limb here, but I’m fairly sure developing nations would rather have that fresh water than the imported soft drinks.
And that’s not all. For each $500 spent on products related to soft drinks and ice manufacturing, 0.439 metric tons of CO2 equivalent are released into the air. Considering the US beverage manufacturing and bottling industry rakes in about $70 billion each year, and without doing any hard calculations, I think it’s safe to say the industry produces quite a bit of carbon emissions.
Interestingly, with the help of Carbon Trust, PepsiCo has created a carbon footprint labeling system for its Tropicana orange juice, and has plans to release the carbon footprint of Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, and Gatorade.
Soft drinks are a processed beverage, and anything that has undergone processing releases toxins, uses energy, and creates waste. If you must drink soda, choose the lesser evil – bottles that offer multiple servings can help minimally reduce some small amount of waste. And always recycle. Check http://www.nrc-recycle.org/ for more information about recycling.