To evaluate the carbon footprint of soda, you have to start with carbonization itself. A typical 12-ounce can of soda releases up to six grams of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and that's just the bubbles! Add to that the acid rain and greenhouse gases produced in the manufacture of plastic bottles, the millions of unrecycled plastic bottles in our landfills and waterways, and the bauxite mining for aluminum cans (including toxic bisphenol-A linings), and you have a sizeable environmental problem.
Recycling the containers is certainly better than throwing them away, but recycling also uses a great deal of energy. And unlike glass and aluminum, plastic bottles cannot be recycled into new containers, but "downcycled" into lower grade plastics with limited applications and even smaller markets.
The nonprofit CAP Partnership has just unveiled their Carbon Action Plan (CAP), a standardized protocol used to measure the greenhouse gas emissions from beverage manufacturing. They estimate worldwide consumption of all ready-to-drink beverages to be approximately 1 trillion litres a year, and plan to assess the carbon footprint of this industry by considering:
- the amount of renewable energy used
- the percentage of recycled material in the packaging
- the number of water litres used to make 1 liter of product
- the extent of a company's carbon reduction in the previous two years
- the amount of carbon emissions verified as having been offset
They are establishing pilot programs with bottled water companies in each continent, but plan to extend the program to soft drinks next, with the hopes of eventually applying their program to many other food and drink producers.