Fizz Off! Youth Challenge Soda Industry's Sugar-Coated Thinking
By Wendy Lesko
Coca-Cola’s mission is “to refresh the world” and promote “open happiness.” The world’s number one beverage company boasts about its initiatives “to support active, healthy living” such as donating to youth fitness programs.
Here are a few examples of young people who are questioning this sugar-coated thinking:
- Truth Unfiltered, Flavored Lies is an award-winning rap documentary produced by three high school students in Columbia, MD with the verdict: “Soda is the new nicotine.”
- P.H.A.T [Powerful, Healthy, Active, Teens] video has a reporter interview Youth Radio interns in Oakland, CA to askt hem about the amount of sugar in a can of soda and whether they might switch to water.
- Saludable Omaha YouthPower leader Jessica in Nebraska believes people feel more “refreshed” without junk foods and “Change is gonna happen” because of the movement.
- Youth Empowered Solutions! 15-year-old Dylan Goodman is part of a multi-generational team that’s exploring with store owners in Asheville, NC a plan that includes positioning healthier foods near checkout registers instead of candy and sodas.
- Zane Middle School Health Club in Eureka, CA conducted a photovoice project and learned from their student survey that many dislike the fountains because “the water is dirty and tastes bad.” Their research led them to propose hydration stations that dispense water into refillable bottles using infrared sensors. The student plan won unanimous approval by school authorities and demand for water is up.
- Kick the Can essay contest winner Shannon Segall of Davis, CA writes “Since teens are the largest consumer demographic these companies are targeting, then it’s time to use that power—the power to make different buying and drinking decisions, while sending a message to beverage corporations that these aren’t the products we want.”
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock
Let’s hope more young people will question the All-American facade of Coca-Cola and the soda industry, considering the figures below, amongst other things:
- Latino teens were exposed to 99 percent more soda ads and 80 to 90 percent more for African American youth than their white counterparts in 2010 than two years earlier.
- Each year Coca-Cola provides $3 million for its College Scholars involving 250 high school seniors; compare that with Coke’s $16 million to LeBron James or $35 million to sponsor American Idol.
- Boys & Girls Clubs of America, National 4-H, Girls Inc., NAACP, American Diabetes Association are among hundreds of organizations that receive Coca-Cola charitable donations.
- Philadelphia Children’s Hospital received a one-time $10 million donation from the American Beverage Association as part of its successful strategy to defeat a two-cents-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks projected to reduce consumption and raise more than $18 million/per year in revenues for city health programs.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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