Concerned as Brng.it is with waste and litter, we like to see a company that dispatches with the outdated resource consumption of older and more established competitors. When it comes to the beverage industry, we think SodaStream is on the right track.
SodaStream allows you to make your own carbonated beverages at home. They sell you a “machine” to fizz up your own tap water, using a reusable aluminum canister of carbon dioxide and a reusable one-liter plastic carbonating bottle or glass carafe. If you want flavoring, they offer dozens of concentrated mixes, and you add a capful. When you use up the canister, you take it back to the store where you purchased it and receive a discount on the replacement. Returns go to SodaStream for refilling. The heavy duty carbonation bottle is intended for repeated reuse and doesn’t need to be replaced unless it becomes worn or damaged.
Contrast the SodaStream system with the massive one-way container-filling operations of the biggest beverage makers. We got a little queasy watching National Geographic‘s 2012 Ultimate Factories episode featuring Coca-Cola’s Baton Rouge bottling plant (see below). The factory truly is a marvel. It operates 24 hours a day, five days a week, and puts out 4.5 million beverage servings each day. But now consider that in the U.S., a great majority of the containers speeding down the conveyor belt won’t be recycled. And that’s just the output from one of Coke’s hundreds of bottling plants. Sending containers out the doors at such an impressive clip, is it any wonder that both landfills and oceans are filling up with these things?
Near the end of the 45 minute episode, they cover the washing and refilling of glass bottles, something which still occurs in Spain. The narrator states that these glass bottle are reused 15 times on average. It begs the question of why this efficient system, with reusable containers, no harmful packaging chemicals, and minimal wildlife-harming potential, constitutes such a tiny proportion of Coke’s packaging today.
Clearly some of the big beverage makers feel threatened by the more environmentally conscientious and economical SodaStream model. Thus the controversy over SodaStream’s Super Bowl advertisement— the one that CBS refused to air this year:
We hate to burst anyone’s bottles, but if we’re going to come closer to the ideal of sustainable consumption, we simply can’t accept the existing big beverage packaging model of endlessly producing containers to (mostly) be thrown “away.” Companies like SodaStream, and upstarts like Freshie, are successfully demonstrating less wasteful and less polluting business models, and are steadily gaining customer attention and approval for their efforts. Further shake-ups to the big-beverage-as-usual business are inevitable, and we believe that’s a very good thing. Stay tuned!