Sprite, Coca-Cola’s lemon-lime soft drink, has always come in a distinctive green bottle. Starting on Aug. 1, consumers will find it in a clear plastic bottle.
Coke executives say the reason is simple. The current bottles contain green polyethylene terephthalate (PET). Those bottles can be recycled into other products, but they can’t be turned into new plastic bottles.
Currently, green PET plastic bottles are converted into single-use items like clothing and carpeting. During the sorting process, green and other colored PET is separated from clear material to avoid discoloring recycled food-grade packaging required to make new PET bottles.
Coke executives say they want to be able to turn all of their soft drink plastic bottles back into new bottles.
“Taking colors out of bottles improves the quality of the recycled material,” said Julian Ochoa, CEO of R3CYCLE, a company working with Coca-Cola Consolidated to enable bottle-to-bottle recycling across the largest U.S. bottler’s 14 state-territory. “This transition will help increase the availability of food-grade rPET. When recycled, clear PET Sprite bottles can be remade into bottles, helping drive a circular economy for plastic.”
Coca-Cola acquired Sprite in 1960 from one of its bottlers who developed the soft drink. From the very start, it came in distinctive green bottles and was Coke’s answer to 7-Up, which was growing in popularity.
At that time, all soft drinks came in glass bottles, which were often reused. Over the years, soft drink bottlers abandoned the more environmentally friendly – but also more expensive – glass bottles for plastic.
Single-use plastic is increasingly viewed as a major environmental problem because it doesn’t degrade over time. Millions of plastic bottles and other items end up in the world’s oceans, creating threats to the marine ecosystem.
DASANI doubles down on recycled plastic
In addition to the change in Sprite bottles, Coke has announced that most of its DASANI water products will be bottled in 100% recycled PET plastic starting this summer. DASANI has pledged to remove the equivalent of 2 billion virgin plastic bottles from production by 2027.
According to Coca-Cola, DASANI’s transition to 100% recycled plastic is projected to save more than 20 million pounds of new plastic when compared to 2019. It is also projected to cut more than 25,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions in 2023 alone.