Which Soda Packaging Has the Biggest Carbon Footprint?

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Coca-Cola Great Britain teamed up with the Carbon Trust to determine the greenhouse gas emissions involved in the life cycle of glass, metal and plastic packaging, and found that the carbon footprint of glass packaging is more than double the impact of using aluminum cans.

"We are absolutely committed as a business, to reducing the environmental impact of our products. This is what our consumers expect and we believe is our responsibility as market leaders," said Sanjay Gupta, President, Coca-Cola, Great Britain and Ireland.

“We are absolutely committed … to reducing the environmental impact of our products. This is what our consumers expect and we believe is our responsibility as market leaders,” said Sanjay Guha, President, Coca-Cola, Great Britain and Ireland.

The company estimates that packaging can account for as much as 70 percent of the overall carbon footprint of the product. The study took samples of 14 different Coca-Cola products, and even compared Coca-Cola Classic vs. Diet Coke (which had lower emissions).

The study was based on manufacturing and selling in Great Britain, but took into account manufacturing, distribution and disposal by consumers. For example, a 330 milliliter aluminum can of Coca-Cola Classic accounted for 170 grams of carbon emissions, while a glass bottle of the same size had a footprint of 360 grams. The study did not include results for plastic bottles.

Coca-Cola’s aluminum cans average 50 percent recycled content, while glass bottles are 40 percent recycled glass and plastic bottles have less than 25 percent recycled Polyethylene terephthalate (PET).

Meanwhile, in the U.S., consumers recycle about 45 percent of aluminum cans, 31 percent of PET bottles and 25 percent of glass containers.

“Today’s announcement is important as it will help bring home to consumers that carbon is everywhere—in all we consume,” said Tom Delay, chief executive of the Carbon Trust. “When we launched the idea around the carbon footprinting of products it was always our aim to have major brands, like Coca-Cola, using the process as a means to further reduce the carbon in their supply chains.”

Trey Granger

Trey Granger

Trey Granger is a former senior waste stream analyst for Earth911.
Trey Granger

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