This article on AdAge.com came to my attention yesterday and I wanted to share it with this community because it represents a great opportunity to talk about the merits of upcycling as a strategy for reducing waste.
It announces Coke’s new 2nd Lives campaign just introduced in Asia. 2nd Lives gives consumers 16 alternative caps enabling them to repurpose their Coca-Cola plastic bottles into an array of upcycled options including paintbrushes, spray cleaners, lamps and toys. (It doesn’t encourage relabeling the bottles, however.)
There’s Upcycling and Then There’s Upcycling
I’m all for upcycling and repurposing and in fact, stories about many such projects have been featured on this website. Upcycling represents a viable alternative in a full portfolio of solutions to solid waste, especially in its ability to give consumers a creative outlet and to help them save time and money.
However, Coke’s 2nd Lives campaign raises some important issues in my mind, not the least of which is product safety: will children mistake a Coke bottle with paint or cleaning fluid in it for ‘the real thing’?
Coke 2nd Lives: Diverting Attention from Real Solutions?
Concern is being expressed in the environmental community that some forms of recycling and other ‘pitch in’ efforts merely divert consumers from real solutions including bottle bills, refillability, and alternatives to petroleum based plastics. (In this vein, I highly recommend Samantha MacBride’s Recycling Reconsidered (MIT Press, 2011), pictured here.)
How to Do Upcycling of Soda Bottles Right?
What do you all think? Am I missing something here about the potential safety issues? Is there a positive role for upcycling and repurposing of soda and other plastic bottles? I’m reminded of how Terracycle packaged worm castings in repurposed soda bottles, thus sparking the upcycling revolution (a business they have since sold). And way back when Welch’s jelly came in little jars that could be repurposed for juice glasses. What other ideas for upcycling and repurposing might be consistent with sustainability?
EDITOR’S NOTE: SOMETIME AFTER THE PUBLICATION OF THIS POST, COKE REMOVED ALL VIDEOS FOR THIS CAMPAIGN FROM YOUTUBE. THEY WOULD NOT RETURN OUR TELEPHONE CALLS FOR COMMENT.