DASANI is one of the top bottled water brands in the world, and it’s obvious. You will find DASANI water at any convenience store you go to. Despite its popularity, DASANI’s water is far from a sustainable product. Coca-Cola masks its role in plastic pollution by marketing DASANI as eco-friendly because the bottle (also known as the HybridBottle) is partly made from plant-based materials. The use of alternatives to PET in the HybridBottle is simply a greenwashing scheme to distract consumers from the long list of environmental harms committed by Coca-Cola. Do yourself a favor and stick to a reusable water bottle - for the sake of the planet and your own peace of mind.
Purified water comes from the same municipal sources as tap water, so DASANI is essentially just filtered tap water. This fact was certainly a shock to me because bottled water brands do a good job of making their products seem more nutritious and safe than tap water. There is no guarantee that bottled water is cleaner than tap water, and bottled water is actually required to undergo testing for contaminants less frequently than regular tap water. DASANI differentiates itself from tap water by filtering the water and adding minerals like magnesium and potassium. Profiting from the sale of tap water is a questionable move, especially when certain municipal water sources are located in places that are experiencing severe droughts.
DASANI water is packaged in what Coca-Cola calls the HybridBottle, a single-use bottle made from up to 50% plant-based materials and rPET (recycled PET plastic). This may sound like a step in the right direction, but I have a few issues with this packaging. First, the phrase “up to” does not guarantee that HybridBottles will contain any percentage of plant-based materials or rPET. Second, the use of more sustainable materials comes with a caveat: the plant-based materials are sourced from Brazil and must be transported over thousands of miles to reach bottling facilities in the U.S. and other countries. Yes, plant-based materials are better than virgin PET because they do not produce nearly as many carbon emissions. But this reduction in extraction and manufacturing-related emissions may not be enough to make up for high transportation-related emissions. The inclusion of rPET is the one legitimate advantage the HybridBottle possesses over a bottle made entirely from virgin plastics. The other half of the HybridBottle is plain old PET, which is inherently unsustainable because it is made from petroleum byproducts. DASANI recently added How2Recycle labels on its bottles to encourage consumers to recycle the HybridBottle. While these labels are a good step to divert plastics from landfills, I don’t think it is fair to make consumers responsible for properly disposing of a product that is meant to be used once and then discarded. It’s Coca-Cola's responsibility to stop selling single-use plastic products in the first place.
Coca-Cola provides no information about how DASANI water is made aside from using reverse osmosis to filter the water. Reverse osmosis filters out contaminants as the water moves across a semipermeable membrane. The catch to this process is that it is water-intensive - you need around 4 gallons of water to create 1 gallon of filtered water. Once filtered, the water is infused with minerals, bottled, and then shipped to stores within the bottling plant’s range. This distribution model actually reduces transportation-related emissions by limiting the distance the products will travel to a localized region. As for the HybridBottle manufacturing process, Coca-Cola does not provide much information to explain that either. PET makes up at least 50% of these bottles and releases carbon emissions when extracted and molded into bottle form. The other 0-50% of the bottle is made by a combination of recycled PET and plant-based materials, both of which produce far fewer emissions than virgin PET because they are not extracted through intensive processes. Plant-based materials refer to by-products of Brazilian sugarcane, which, as I mentioned, must be transported across several borders to reach bottling plants. It would be least impactful to replace any plant-based materials in the HybridBottle with rPET because it would simplify the supply chain and increase Coca-Cola’s plastics recycling. DASANI’s website explains that the bottles are manufactured in a way that reduces their weight by at least 30%. Reducing the amount of PET used in the manufacturing process is the least Coca-Cola can do to limit its use of petroleum, so I find it misleading for DASANI’s website to list this as a sustainable initiative. It seems to me that Coca-Cola created HybridBottles to make DASANI appear sustainable, boost its reputation, and distract consumers from the corporation’s lack of transparency or accountability.
Coca-Cola, the owner of DASANI, is a huge corporation that earns billions in profits at the expense of natural systems and marginalized communities. Don’t let the corporation’s website fool you - Coca-Cola only publishes information that supports a false image of itself as a responsible and sustainable business. Coca-Cola has set the following goals for itself to reduce its waste: make all of its packaging recyclable by 2025, use at least 50% recycled material in its packaging by 2030, and collect and recycle a bottle or can for each that is sold by 2050. I almost laughed when reading these goals because they are not ambitious at all. Coca-Cola should already be making all of its packaging recyclable, and even if it were to achieve these goals, it is still producing single-use products that will end up as waste. The corporation was ranked the worst plastic polluter three years in a row from 2018 to 2020, and I have a feeling Coca-Cola will continue this streak in 2021. Coca-Cola has had a history of unethical practices relating to product quality, employee wellbeing, and pollution, but the corporation is taking small steps in certain communities to create a net positive impact. Through funding, regional projects, and site-specific innovations, Coca-Cola is slowly starting to make up for years of disregard towards people and the environment. I don’t think this change will happen fast enough, so Coca-Cola needs to step up its game and reconsider its strategy to become more sustainable.