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SodaStream irks fizzy drink bottlers

Dec 07 2012 12:01 Finweek

The SodaStream cage at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg.

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Johannesburg - SodaStream’s global pro-environment campaign, “If you love the bubbles, set them free”, is causing a lot of irritation among the bottlers of fizzy soft drinks. In the UK, industry leaders have successfully got a TV commercial banned from being flighted because it allegedly denigrated bottled soft drinks.

SodaStream is a product that carbonates soft drinks as you use them, so it is not necessary to bottle them. The message of its global campaign is that plastic bottles contribute hugely to the consumption of resources and the destruction of the planet.

“Help free the world from bottles,” is its plea. 

It lost the case brought by Clearcast, an organisation that pre-approves TV advertising in the UK.

Earlier this year, SodaStream South Africa mounted an eco-exhibit at OR Tambo International Airport. A huge metal cage was filled with 5 078 used plastic PET bottles, which is the average number of bottles an average South African family consumes and discards in three years. “With SodaStream you can save 2 000 bottles a year!” was the message on the cage.

A complaint was also lodged with the Advertising Standards Authority claiming unauthorised misuse of Coca-Cola, Fanta and other soft drink brands, which were still identifiable on many of the bottles. Disparagement of a competitor’s product is also an offence under the ASA code.

“The truth is that plastic bottles destroy our planet,” says Soda Stream’s South African MD, Francois Dippenaar. “Every year, 340bn bottles around the world end up in landfills. Because of this threat to the planet, we will continue telling the story.

“The SodaStream system creates a fraction of the carbon footprint of the traditional industry with its factories, trucks and bottles. We will not compromise on our environmental strategy, neither will we be silenced or intimidated by Coca-Cola. We will continue telling the story that plastic is destroying our planet.

“We have erected the cage at high-profile events and venues such as the Chicago International Housewares Show, Selfridges in the UK, and at airports in Canada, Belgium and New Zealand.”

SodaStream CEO Daniel Birnbaum asks: “Are we really being censored for helping to save the environment. This might be the first time an environmental approach has been shut down by the media to protect the traditional industry.”

Dippenaar said SodaStream intends to lobby Government for a plastic bottle tax in SA to protect the environment. 

*This article first appeared in Finweek.

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