Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

Sugar Cane / Soft Drinks – Sustainability and the Environment

It would be rather prudent to consider 1st April (April Fool‘s Day) when placing a Media Release. NQ Dry Tropics placed the following - after being amongst the recipients of the funding from the Coca Cola Foundation (AUD$1.2m) – they may have been a little distracted.

Coca-Cola supports local farmers 1
(1st April 2011…..April Fool's Day)
The key points are..

  •  A global soft drink manufacturer and an environment group are getting behind north Queensland sugar cane farmers.
  •  Project Catalyst supports farmers who are developing practices that improve the quality of water leaving farms.
  •  The initiative is supported by the Coca-Cola Foundation, World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) and Mackay Whitsunday natural resource management group Reef Catchments.
  • 8 Dermot O‘Gorman, WWF Australia CEO says, ?The Great Barrier Reef is the world‘s largest living organism and is currently facing two key threats to its long term survival: climate change and land-based pollution.
  • "The initial phase of Project Catalyst has already shown it is possible to dramatically reduce the impact from land-based pollution whileCoca-Cola South Pacific President Gareth Edgecombe said Project Catalyst is ground breaking in number of ways:
  • "The Project has brought together the agricultural and corporate sectors; environmental and natural resource management groups – with a collective interest in promoting sustainable production for the protection of a Queensland national and international icon, while working to ensure the future viability of the sugar industry."

 Another 'Media Release' also focuses on Coca Cola from a year earlier.

Coca-Cola Fights Global Warming by Replacing CO2 with N2O in Soft Drinks2
(Thursday, April 01, 2010)

Atlanta - It was reported today that the Coca-Cola Company will replace the carbon dioxide (CO2) in their soft drinks with nitrous oxide (N2O) to combat global warming. Because the company is the leading drink bottler in the world, producing billions of bottles of the carbonated drinks each year, the amount of carbon is significant, as it leaks into the atmosphere each time a beverage is consumed.

According to the East Anglia University Climate Research Unit, where leading climate change investigation records are kept, soft drink carbon dioxide emissions are significant. A statement from the lab said, ?soft drinks were a surprising contributor to the overall CO2 balance and hard as we tried, we couldn't apply enough of a very artificial correction to keep the temperature down with the volume of carbonated beverages consumed worldwide. It was much bigger than we thought."

Coca-Cola immediately responded to this research with a crash program to replace carbon dioxide in its beverages. "When we decided to make the switch we realized how all of our researchers and test panelists were laughing and smiling" said VP of Customer Satisfaction Penelope Fizz,? we knew we had another winner on our hands. Using N2O or laughing gas was a stroke of genius by our chemists because it has the same fizz everyone loves with the added bonus of making people laugh."

Coca-Cola is already one of the most environmentally friendly companies in the world. According to Forbes, Coca-Cola has set a goal of recycling every bottle it sells in the U.S., pledging to recover 50% of its plastic bottles and cans by 2015. In 2007, Coca-Cola Enterprises established Coca-Cola Recycling to focus on recovering and recycling packaging materials used in North America – including PET, aluminum, cardboard and plastic film.

In addition to its recycling efforts, in January, the company announced the largest hybrid fleet in North America, adding 185 hybrid trucks to their fleet, boosting the total number of earth-friendly trucks to 327. Hybrid trucks use about 30 percent less fuel and reduce emissions by 30 percent when compared to typical non-hybrid trucks.

In other news, Anhauser-Busch is investigating replacing the CO2 in the beer manufactured by the company with N2O. Other soft drink bottlers and brewers are expected to follow the lead set by these companies.

Have a Coke and a Smile!
Note: April Fool's!! ....please share it with your friends!

I came across both of these Media Releases while in a gutted and embittered mood after having my entry in the UN Environment Awards overlooked/junked in favour of 3 other entries.

My entry was prepared for the "Excellence in Sustainable Water Management Award” and the following are the finalists.

Bentleigh Secondary College – "Water Saving at Bentleigh Secondary College‘

Coca Cola South Pacific Pty – "Project Catalyst"

Enviro Manufacturing Co. Pty Ltd –"?Enviro Valve, Save Cold Water from Hot Tap'

My concerns are that a genuine interest in sustainability and the environment cannot be associated with the production of soft drinks.

The Coca-Cola Company, its subsidiaries and products have been subject to sustained criticism by both consumer groups and watchdogs, particularly since the early 2000s. Allegations against the company are varied and criticism has been based around; possible health effects of Coca-Cola products, questionable labour practices (including allegations of involvement with paramilitary organizations in suppression of trade unions), and the company's poor environmental record.

Investigating further, the following points should question the UN Environment Awards involvement with the growing of sugar cane and the production of soft drinks.

Rain Forests being sacrificed for Palm Oil and Sugar Cane Production
Jane Goodall said ?the problem is especially bad in the Indonesian rain forest where a large amount of palm nut oil is being made. Growers in Uganda — where her nonprofit group works to conserve Great Apes — are also looking to buy large parcels of rain forest and cut them down to grow sugar cane, while in Brazil, forest is cleared to grow sugar cane.?

With the destruction of forests and deforestation, then the animals that inhabit these forests are losing ground for survival and possibly extinction.

Historically, the Mata Atlântica made up over a 1.2 million square kilometers (about a quarter of the size of the Amazon), but after centuries of deforestation for timber, sugar cane, coffee, cattle ranching, and urban sprawl the Mata Atlântica has declined by well over 90 percent: today less than 100,000 square kilometers of the forest remains.

Brazil's Alagoas state covers almost 28,000 square kilometers, roughly half of which used to be rainforest. Sugar-cane plantations have now taken over coastal regions, including flood plains. A study commissioned by the Alagoas government reveals that just 13.1% of the state's original rainforest has survived 35 years of the sugar-cane ethanol programme. This amounts to an average loss of 3,736 hectares of rainforest per year in what was formerly one of the world's 34 biodiversity hotspots.

Consumption of soft drinks in Australia is high, ranking in the top 10 countries based on market share. These consumption levels are supported by data from a variety of sources such as apparent consumption surveys, nutritional surveys and the beverage industry. Adolescents, particularly males consume the most, with per-consumer consumption in these groups reaching almost a litre per day. Soft drinks contribute up to 10% of energy intake in adolescents.

Sugar makes up about 10% of soft drinks content. This would mean about 40 million ton of sugar used for the global production of soft drinks, this is roughly one third of the global annual sugar production.

Even recognising the emergent biofuel focus from sugar cane - which is in its infancy - it can be reasoned that historically that the growing of sugar cane to provide the sugar for soft drinks - can claim a fair share of the deforestation.

Soft Drinks and Overeating

The consumption of soft drinks is regularly linked with obesity.

"In fact, said Dr. David Ludwig, a Harvard endocrinologist whose 2001 paper in the Lancet is widely cited by obesity researchers, sweetened drinks are the only specific food that clinical research has directly linked to weight gain.

Highly concentrated starches and sugars promote overeating, and the granddaddy of them all is sugar-sweetened beverages," said Ludwig, who runs the Optimal Weight for Life Program at Children's Hospital in Boston.

Therefore the clearing of rainforest for cattle ranching can also be linked to soft drinks. This then can be connected with methane and the effect on global warming.

Estimates of animal methane emissions
Donald E. Johnson and Gerald M. Ward

The enteric methane emissions into the atmospheric annually from domestic animals total about 77 Tg. Another 10 to 14 Tg are likely released from animal manure disposal systems. About 95% of global animal enteric methane is from ruminants, a consequence of their large populations, body size and appetites combined with the extensive degree of anaerobic microbial fermentation occurring in their gut.

Teragram (Tg) is an SI unit of mass equal to 1012 grams, or one megatonne (106 metric tons). Teragram is usually used in scientific contexts.

Cheeseburgers, Coke and Fries also negatively contribute to the environment in other ways – e.g. packaging – but that is another story.

Climate impact of beverages
The following article highlights another alarming aspect of soft drinks and the full article is worth reviewing. From this I have focused on the comparison of "Bottled carbonated water" with "Soft Drinks" 3.

From this study the GHG emission for Soft Drinks was 109
Whereas Bottled Carbonated Water was 10.

Why are soft drinks contributing over 10 times more Greenhouse Gas Emissions than carbonated water?

It must relate to the sugar content.

I would also expect that the human gut to contribute further GHG emissions especially as soft drinks are somewhat more complex than water.

"The body does not digest and absorb some carbohydrates—the sugar, starches, and fibre found in many foods—in the small intestine because of a shortage or absence of certain enzymes that aid digestion.

This undigested food then passes from the small intestine into the large intestine, where normal, harmless bacteria break down the food, producing hydrogen, carbon dioxide, and, in about one-third of all people, methane. Eventually these gases exit through the rectum."

Water Footprint
Similar to GHG emissions is the Water Footprint and it would be fair to say that it would be a 'doubling' up on the environmental impact to use both.

The water footprint of a soft drink depends of course on its ingredients.

The water footprint of this soft drink is estimated between
170 to 310 litres per 0.5 litre bottle.

The production of soft drink includes the following process steps: bottle making (from PET resins to PET-bottle forms)*, bottle cleaning (by air), syrup preparation, mixing, filling, labelling and packing. Most of the water footprint of the soft drink comes from its supply-chain, mainly from its ingredients (95 %). A smaller fraction stems from packaging and labelling materials (4%), particularly from its bottle. In production processes, the amount of water consumed is very small compared to its supply-chain (1 %), which is mainly water incorporated into the product.

Sugar is one of the main water consuming ingredients in the soft drink. Three different sugar types are typically used in soft drinks: sugar beet, sugar cane and high fructose maize syrup (HFMS). Type and origin of sugar input significantly effects on the total water footprint of the soft drink. For example, the total water footprint of the soft drink is 310 litres when the sugar originates from cane sugar from Cuba, 170 litres when the sugar comes from beet sugar from the Netherlands, and 180 litres with HFMS from USA.

*PET is the most favorable alternative when compared to aluminum cans and glass bottles for a 355 ml carbonated soft drink application.

Aluminium is used to make 85% of the world‘s 210 billion beverage cans produced every year.

To make one Aluminum can - requires 3500 litres of water.

The Source of Carbon Dioxide
From my experience in the wine industry – Air Liquide – supply Carbon Dioxide. It was supplied from their site at Mount Gambier.

The following are some selections taken from…
Air Liquide Australia Ltd - Caroline Carbon Dioxide Purification Plant
Environmental Impact Report

Air Liquide Australia Ltd own and operate a carbon dioxide (CO2) purification plant situated near Mt Gambier in the south east of South Australia.
The plant produces approximately 21,000 tonnes of CO2 per year and supplies liquid CO2 to clients in South Australia and Victoria.

The plant supplies liquid CO2 to the soft drink, firefighting, medical and winemaking industries in South Australia and Victoria.

Raw liquid from the well contains approximately 90 – 94.5% CO2, and 6.5 -10% impurities. These impurities include sulphur compounds (mainly H2S), nitrogen and a number of light and heavy hydrocarbons.

During the distillation process a CO2/methane/nitrogen mixture vents to the atmosphere (methane makes up approx. 1 – 1.5% of 3,000kg CO2 vented per hour).

Venting of CO2 vapour (including fugitive releases) and methane is required during operations. Air Liquide is currently aiming to reduce CO2 losses from 25% to 20% by 2001. This will also reduce methane emissions.

Apart from intermittent production during 1968, the well has produced CO2 almost continuously at an average rate of 1.25 million SCFPD (65 tonnes per day). The maximum continuous rate is approximately 1.9 million SCFPD (100 tonnes per day).

When the rest of the world is looking to capture and store carbon dioxide
– Air Liquide continue to draw it from underground.

When various wineries suffered tainting of their wines from the CO2 – Air Liquide offered to supply wineries from another source – the burning of natural gas!!!!

UN Environment Awards Dinner
So on the night, as the people gather to celebrate, are they to expect a vegetarian menu and glasses of tap water? More likely – there will be chicken, beef and seafood and the opportunity to wash it all down with wine, beer, mineral water and soft drinks. Perhaps a deal has been struck with Coca Cola South Pacific to feature their products to avoid any embarrassment from the other champion of the environment Schweppes Australia (Pepsi).

It should be noted that the major sponsor Virgin Australia is "associated" through Sir Richard Branson with Virgin Cola.

My only hope is at the Coca Cola / WWF "Project Catalyst" Table - they reflect for a moment on the Gorillas.


Contact Profile

Greenwash and poor judgement by UN Environment

H2Oasis Energy Pty Ltd
Address: 12 Caffrey Crescent, Port Willunga, South Australia 5173
Phone: +61 8 85566550 m. 0419810208
E-mail: [email protected]
Our Solar Distillation Irrigation Matting (ultiMAT) creates the water to make plants grow. It only needs a source of saline water – oceans or groundwater – and sunshine to be able to operate.
The pure water generated can sustain plant growth on previously useless land.
At the same time it holds the soil in place and captures rainfall – both important factors in arresting desertification. This in itself is a substantial business opportunity as highlighted by this quote….
A twenty-year worldwide programme to arrest further desertification requires about US$ 4.5 billion a year. (
Rod Bourchier
P: 0885566550
M: 0419810208


Environment, Greenhouse Gas Emissions; Water Footprint:; Rainforest; Carbon Dioxide;



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