A landscape with empty cans, plastic bottles and other packaging are of limited aesthetic merit. This recognizable view is a normal but not acceptable situation in 2014. However many people forget the fact that the soft drink industry is responsible for a significant proportion of the world’s trash. The reason? Many years ago two parties whereby Coca Cola and the factory owners entered into an agreement with each other and the consequences were for a third party which was not a part of the transaction, namely the government. This complete change created a new litter, namely non-reusable soft drink bottles.

Disposable cola

The last returnable glass Coca Cola bottle in the US has rolled of the production line in a Minnesota bottling facility. In America the deposit of the bottles does not exist anymore, which creates automatically less attention for the bottle itself by the consumer. Since the 19th century there was a major change in the glass centre for the capitalistic countries, where there are now no deposit on the bottles.

There are two different sides to this story, one of poverty and one of wealth according to the analysis from Marx (Van der Pijl 2009). Unfortunately this poverty reflects the environmental poverty of the world. Research has shown us that in 1940, consumers returned 96 percent of the glass bottles. This shows, from an environmental perspective, no reason to change it. However from the wealth side, the whole outsourcing can be reduced whether provides a lot more money in the long term.

Global capitalism
The soft drinks industry switched to disposable packaging and thus the American garbage policy was changed without communication. The new packaging created a situation where Coca-Cola did not need the locals anymore to put the drink into the bottles. The reason for changing the packaging was that there was no demand for local infrastructure of collection services. With the new packaging, one cola could cross the whole country. The global capitalism speed up the circulation of material goods. Centralization and monopolization of Coca-Cola are the main reasons for the rapid change to reusable packaging. One benefit of changing this was the fact that the responsibility of the litter was not the responsibility of soft drinks industry anymore. This became part of a third party that was not informed, the government. (Ravenhill)

“Bend A Little” and “Keep America Beautiful”

During the 60s and 70s there was political pressure to require a deposit on bottles. “Bend A Little” and “Keep America Beautiful” are campaigns to remind people to clean up America. These campaigns were initiatives from the soft drink company with support from the government to create goodwill.

‘Recycling became a corporate weapon in a fierce battle to undermine mandatory deposit legislation and bans on nonreturnable packaging’ Elmore stated. This sounds good, however the citizens’ did not noticed that they are paying twice the cost with the unpaid cleaning work and the increased tax burden.

Liza Rietvelt

Environmental Leader [online] End of the Line for Returnable Coke Bottles. October 16, 2012. Available  [Accessed on 16 November 2014]

Frederik, J. Wie statiegeld afschaft gooit zijn eigen glazen in. De Correspondent [online] October 20, 2014. Available  [Accessed on 15 November 2014]

Mooney, P. “Bend A little” and ‘Keep America beautiful’. Coca Cola journey [online] April 21, 2009. Available [Accessed on 15 November 2014]

Pijl, van der K. (2009) From Classical to Global Political Economy: A Survey of Global Political Economy [online]. University of Sussex: Centre for Global Political Economy. Available [Accessed on 15 November 2014]

Ravenhill, J, Global Political Economy, third edition, p347-349, [Accessed on 11 December 2014]


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