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Coca-Cola, Pepsi Fight Back Against New York City Soda Ban

Coca-Cola, Pepsi Fight Back Against New York City Soda Ban

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Soda makers and the New Yorkers for Beverage Choices launch agressive PR campaign

It's not just the American Beverage Association that's fighting back against Mayor Bloomberg's proposed soda ban: now, soda makers, like Coca-Cola and Pepsi, have joined forces to push back, as the approaching public hearing is only one week away.

USA Today reports that the forces behind the New Yorkers for Beverage Choices coalition have launched an agressive public relations campaign to fight the sugary drink ban. Among the tactics used: radio spots, petitions, ads on movie marquees, social media campaigns, and even airplane banners (really).

Why are the soda giants putting so much effort into the attack? They're scared to lose more money. Volume sales for Coca-Cola and Pepsi are already declining; 1 percent in the last year for Coke and 5 percent in the last year for Pepsi. And the giant Big-Gulps you can get at the movie theaters and 7-Eleven are the "money makers," said Joe Pawlak, vice president at food industry research firm Technomic, to USA Today — beacuse they're marked up 10 to 15 percent. The cost of the ban, if passed, would have big ramifications for these companies, he said.

In response, Bloomberg and the Department of Public Health have launched their own set of ads, urging New Yorkers to drink healthy. "Are you pouring on the pounds?" is the latest marketing tactic to to hit New York City subway cars. The public hearing will be one to watch.

New York’s Ban on Big Sodas Is Rejected by Final Court

The state’s highest court on Thursday refused to reinstate New York City’s controversial limits on sales of jumbo sugary drinks, exhausting the city’s final appeal and dashing the hopes of health advocates who have urged state and local governments to curb the consumption of drinks and foods linked to obesity.

In a 20-page opinion, Judge Eugene F. Pigott Jr. of the New York State Court of Appeals wrote that the city’s Board of Health “exceeded the scope of its regulatory authority” in enacting the proposal, which was championed by former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. Judge Pigott wrote that the complexity of the proposal and its reach into the everyday lives of millions meant that the City Council ought to address it instead.

The ruling was a major victory for the American soft-drink industry, which had fought the plan. Two lower courts had already ruled against the city, saying it overreached in trying to prohibit the sale of sugary drinks in containers larger than 16 ounces.

The court’s 4-to-2 decision could also have larger implications for city agencies like the Board of Health in their ability to generate high-profile initiatives that can withstand legal challenges.

In a blistering dissent of the opinion, Judge Susan P. Read wrote that the ruling ignored decades of precedent in which the board was given broad purview to address public health matters, such as regulating the city’s water supply and banning the use of lead paint in homes.

The opinion, Judge Read wrote, “misapprehends, mischaracterizes and thereby curtails the powers of the New York City Board of Health to address the public health threats of the early 21st century.”

But in the majority opinion, Judge Pigott drew a sharp distinction between the soda proposal and past initiatives of the board, such as banning trans fats in restaurants. He wrote that those earlier policies had a more direct link to the health of the public and represented “minimal interference with the personal autonomy” of New Yorkers.

That did not quell the concerns of some legal experts.

“It casts a cloud over the ability of administrative agencies to engage in innovative forms of regulation,” said Richard Briffault, a law professor at Columbia who filed a brief supporting the city.

Robert Bookman, a lawyer who frequently sues the city, praised the ruling. “Under Mayor Bloomberg, the Board of Health seemed to feel that its power was unlimited,” Mr. Bookman said. “Now they know they are no different than any other administrative agency.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio, a frequent critic of Mr. Bloomberg but a supporter of the soda proposal, said he was “extremely disappointed” by the ruling. The mayor said he would review other options for the city to combat obesity, but his team did not immediately specify what steps might be taken.

Aides to the mayor said Mr. de Blasio would consider introducing legislation in the Council, the route recommended by the judges. But that approach is not likely to go far: The Council speaker, Melissa Mark-Viverito, opposes the proposal, and she said on Thursday that she was pleased with the court’s decision.

Mr. Bloomberg’s proposal, which polls showed was opposed by a majority of New Yorkers, set off a global debate over soda consumption. It also prompted panic among powerful beverage companies, who feared that their products could be widely branded as a threat to public health.

Questions about the workability of the plan were raised from the start. Because of jurisdictional quirks, not all businesses involved with selling food and beverages would have been affected. The rules would have covered places like fast-food franchises, delis and movie theaters, but convenience stores and grocery markets would have been exempt. And while the limits would have applied to a broad menu of popular drinks, there were many exceptions, including milkshakes, fruit juices and alcoholic beverages.

The soft-drink industry, through lobbying and public-relations campaigns, has helped defeat soda taxes and other regulatory measures in states and municipalities around the country. After Mr. Bloomberg announced his plan in May 2012, the industry poured millions of dollars into an ad campaign that framed the proposal as infringing on consumer freedom. The industry later retained the law firm of Latham & Watkins to challenge the limits in court.

The American Beverage Association, the industry’s trade group, said in a statement that it was “pleased” with the Court of Appeals ruling, saying the proposal “would have created an uneven playing field for thousands of small businesses in the city and limited New Yorkers’ freedom of choice.”

The plastic backlash: what's behind our sudden rage – and will it make a difference?

P lastic is everywhere, and suddenly we have decided that is a very bad thing. Until recently, plastic enjoyed a sort of anonymity in ubiquity: we were so thoroughly surrounded that we hardly noticed it. You might be surprised to learn, for instance, that today’s cars and planes are, by volume, about 50% plastic. More clothing is made out of polyester and nylon, both plastics, than cotton or wool. Plastic is also used in minute quantities as an adhesive to seal the vast majority of the 60bn teabags used in Britain each year.

Add this to the more obvious expanse of toys, household bric-a-brac and consumer packaging, and the extent of plastic’s empire becomes clear. It is the colourful yet banal background material of modern life. Each year, the world produces around 340m tonnes of the stuff, enough to fill every skyscraper in New York City. Humankind has produced unfathomable quantities of plastic for decades, first passing the 100m tonne mark in the early 1990s. But for some reason it is only very recently that people have really begun to care.

The result is a worldwide revolt against plastic, one that crosses both borders and traditional political divides. In 2016, a Greenpeace petition for a UK-wide plastic microbead ban hit 365,000 signatures in just four months, eventually becoming the largest environmental petition ever presented to government. Protest groups from the US to South Korea have dumped piles of what they say is unwanted and excessive plastic packaging at supermarkets. Earlier this year, angry customers in the UK posted so many crisp packets back to their manufacturers, in protest at the fact they weren’t recyclable, that the postal service was overwhelmed. Prince Charles has given speeches about the dangers of plastic, while Kim Kardashian has posted on Instagram about the “plastic crisis”, and claims to have given up straws.

At the highest levels of government the plastic panic can resemble a scrambled response to a natural disaster, or a public health crisis. The United Nations has declared a “war” on single-use plastic. In Britain, Theresa May has called it a “scourge”, and committed the government to a 25-year plan that would phase out disposable packaging by 2042. India claimed it would do the same, but by 2022.

Julian Kirby, a campaigner at Friends of the Earth, told me he had “never seen anything like it in nearly two decades of campaigning”. Friends of the Earth only started a plastic programme in 2016 Greenpeace didn’t have a dedicated plastic team until 2015. A journalist at the Daily Mail, which was one of the first newspapers on the plastic beat, told me that they received more mail about plastic than any other environmental issue (“beats climate change every time,” they said).

And then there is Blue Planet II. Last December, the final episode of the series dedicated six minutes to the impact of plastic on sea life. There was a turtle, hopelessly tangled in plastic netting, and an albatross, dead, from shards of plastic lodged in her gut. “It was the biggest reaction to anything in the whole series,” Tom McDonald, head of commissioning at the BBC, told me. “People didn’t just want to talk about the episode – which is the usual – they were asking us how to fix things.” Over the next few days, politicians fielded calls and received a flood of emails from their constituents who felt moved to action by the programme. People started referring to the “Blue Planet II effect” to explain why public opinion had shifted against plastic so decisively.

All this has added up to a feeling that we might be on the verge of a great environmental victory, of the kind not seen since the successful action against acid rain and CFCs three decades ago. A great wave of public anger is pushing those in power to eliminate a single substance from our collective life – and with big commitments already secured, the signs seem promising.

But getting rid of plastic would require more than a packaging-free aisle at the supermarket and soggy cardboard drinking straws at the pub. Plastic is everywhere not because it was always better than the natural materials it replaced, but because it was lighter and cheaper – so much cheaper, in fact, that it was easier to justify throwing away. Customers found this convenient, and businesses were happy to sell them a new plastic container for every soda or sandwich they bought. In the same way steel enabled new frontiers in building, plastic made possible the cheap and disposable consumer culture that we have come to take for granted. To take on plastic is in some way to take on consumerism itself. It requires us to recognise just how radically our way of life has reshaped the planet in the span of a single lifetime, and ask whether it is too much.

T he most astounding thing about the anti-plastic movement is just how fast it has grown. To travel back even to 2015 is to enter to a world in which almost all of the things we currently know about plastic are already known, but people aren’t very angry about it. As recently as three years ago, plastic was just one of those problems – like climate change, endangered species or antibiotic resistance – that everyone agreed was bad, but which few people considered doing much about.

This wasn’t for lack of effort by scientists. The case against plastic had been building for almost three decades. In the early 1990s, researchers noticed that some 60-80% of the waste in the ocean was non-biodegradable plastic, and the amount of plastic washing up on beaches and in harbours was increasing. Then came the revelation that plastic was accumulating in the calm regions between ocean currents, forming what the oceanographer Curtis Ebbesmeyer called “great garbage patches”. The largest garbage patch – Ebbesmeyer reckons there are eight in total – is three times the size of France, and contains some 79,000 tonnes of waste.

In 2004, the scale of the problem became even more apparent when the University of Plymouth oceanographer Richard Thompson coined the term “microplastic” to describe the billions of minuscule bits of plastic that have either resulted from the breakdown of larger plastics or been deliberately made for use in commercial products. Researchers all over the world began cataloguing how these microplastics were finding their way into the organs of organisms, from tiny krill to enormous fish such as tuna. In 2015, a group led by the University of Georgia environmental engineer Jenna Jambeck estimated that somewhere between 4.8m and 12.7m tonnes of plastic was entering the ocean each year, a number they expected to double by 2025.

The plastic problem was mind-bogglingly big, only getting bigger, and it was tough to get people to care. Sometimes alarming stories about plastic did break through into the media and catch the interest of the public – the garbage patch was a media favourite, and every so often there was a new panic about overflowing landfills, or the massive quantities of waste we ship overseas – but it was nothing like today. Roland Geyer, the influential University of California industrial ecologist, told me that between roughly 2006 and 2016, he probably did fewer than 10 interviews about plastic in the last two years, he has been asked to do more than 200.

What exactly caused this change is a question of great debate. The most plausible answer, and the one that has become the working theory of many of the scientists and campaigners I spoke to, isn’t that the science on plastic reached a critical mass, or that we became saturated with images of adorable sea creatures choking on our waste (although those things are important). It is that, at a deep level, the whole way we think about plastic has been transformed. We used to see it as litter – a nuisance but not a menace. That idea has been undermined by the recent widespread acknowledgment that plastic is far more pervasive and sinister than most people had ever imagined.

The shift in thinking started with the public outcry over microbeads, the small, abrasive grains of plastic that companies began pouring into cosmetic and cleaning products in the mid-1990s to add grit. (Nearly every plastic product has a natural and often biodegradable antecedent – plastic microbeads replaced ground seed kernels or pumice stones.) Scientists began raising the alarm about potential dangers posed to sea life in 2010, and people were shocked to learn that microbeads were in thousands of products, from Johnson & Johnson’s spot-clearing face scrubs, to supposedly eco-friendly brands like the Body Shop.

The realisation that microbeads were pouring down millions of shower drains was a key moment in the public turn against plastic, according to Will McCallum, head of plastics campaigns at Greenpeace UK. “It was a design decision, a design flaw really,” he said. “It led people to ask, ‘How did this happen?’” In 2015, when the US Congress considered a limited ban on cosmetics containing microbeads, it passed with broad bipartisan support. “The issue went from almost zero awareness in the public mind, to a kind of widespread shock,” says MP Mary Creagh, chair of the UK parliamentary Environmental Audit Committee, which investigated microbeads in 2016, eventually leading to a comprehensive ban on their manufacture and sale.

A recycling centre outside Beijing, China. Photograph: Fred Dufour/AFP/Getty Images

Microbeads were only the beginning. The public would soon learn that synthetic fabrics such as nylon and polyester shed thousands of microscopic fibres with each wash cycle. After scientists started showing how these fibres ended up lodged in the guts of fish, newspapers ran articles with headlines such as “Yoga pants are destroying the Earth”, while eco-conscious brands such as Patagonia scrambled for solutions. (Last year Patagonia began selling a washing-machine insert called Guppyfriend, which it says will catch “some” of the plastic sloughing off its clothing.) Then tyres, which are about 60% plastic, were revealed to shed plastic fibres while in motion, potentially more than microbeads and clothing combined.

Everyday items began to seem like sources of contagion, and there was little any individual could do about it. On the forums of parenting website Mumsnet, there are hundreds of posts about alternative cosmetic products that don’t contain microbeads – but there are as yet no plastic-free tyres. MP Anna McMorrin, who has raised the issue in parliament, told me her constituents were exasperated. “They were telling me ‘I watch what I buy, I recycle, but what can I do when it’s everywhere?’”

According to Chris Rose, a former Greenpeace director who writes an influential blog about environmental messaging, scientists have long thought of plastic as a dangerous pollutant, but until recently the public had a very different view. For most people, plastic seemed easy to grasp. It was the things people purchased and threw away. People could see it and touch it, and in a way it felt like it was under control. Even if people weren’t doing anything about the problem, they felt they could if they really wanted to – and in the most immediate way possible, by simply picking it up and putting it in the bin.

But plastic no longer seems like this. It is still immediate – it’s in our household products, coffee cups, teabags and clothing – but it seems to have escaped our ability to catch it. It slips through our fingers and our water filters and sloshes into rivers and oceans like effluent from a sinister industrial factory. It is no longer embodied by a Big Mac container on the side of the road. It has come to seem more like a previously unnoticed chemical listed halfway down the small print on a hairspray bottle, ready to mutate fish or punch a hole in the ozone layer.

T he public turn against plastic was not foreseen by scientists or environmental activists, most of whom are used to their warnings going unheeded. In fact, today some scientists seem vaguely embarrassed by the scale of the backlash. “I scratch my head about it every day,” says the Imperial College oceanographer Erik van Sebille. “How is plastic public enemy No 1? That should be climate change.” Other scientists I spoke to downplayed plastic pollution as one problem among many, albeit one that had crowded out public interest in more pressing problems.

But unlike climate change, which seems vague, vast, and apocalyptic, plastic is smaller, more tangible, it is in your life right now. “The public doesn’t make these fine calculations – this is X times worse than that,” says Tom Burke, a former director of Friends of the Earth. “A moment crystallises and people see that other people feel the same way they do about an issue, then you get a push. People just want things fixed.” Or, as Christian Dunn, a fast-talking ecology lecturer from the University of Bangor, who has spent the past year helping to turn his hometown of Chester into one of Britain’s most anti-plastic cities, put it: “It’s something we can just get on with.”

Walking around with Dunn and his co-organiser Helen Tandy, who heads the local Friends of the Earth chapter and has the steady positivity and self-effacing manner of a longtime environmentalist, the appeal of the fight against plastic seems obvious. There is the sense that you have joined an insurgent political campaign. Businesses, from Costa Coffee to the high street greengrocer, have signs of support in the windows. “Ask for a straw at any pub in Chester and they’ll tell you ‘Can’t. It kills whales,’” a young barman told me. A builder named Dylan told me that he has begun recommending his clients choose fittings without plastic packaging. The B&Q ones have too much, he said.

A black-footed albatross chick with plastic debris in its guts, found in the Midway Atoll. Photograph: Dan Clark/USFWS

At Chester Zoo, the facilities manager said that their cafe is eliminating single-use plastic packaging, and they are auditing the gift store as well. The zoo is the biggest attraction in the area, and a huge get for the campaign. “What about feed sacks? And other things for the animals?” Dunn asked. (The manager said they’d look into it.) On our way out, a group of schoolchildren walked toward the elephant pen holding purple Mylar balloons. “Where did they get those?” Tandy wondered. “We’ll ask about it next time.”

This sort of relentlessly practical, grassroots campaigning has flourished over the past couple of years. As a result, we have entered a phase where every brand, organisation and politician strains to be seen to be doing something. Monitoring this firehose of press releases for even a few weeks, you learn that Tottenham Hotspur are planning to phase out all single-use plastic from their new stadium, Seattle has banned plastic straws within city limits, while its most famous coffee chain, Starbucks, has promised to remove an estimated 1bn straws a year across its 28,000 global locations, and Lego, which doesn’t make any non-plastic products, is looking into plant-based plastics for its production lines.

There is a slight tinge of mania to all this. Natalie Fee, an activist who founded the Bristol-based campaign group City to Sea, told me that after appearing on the BBC last year to talk about plastic she began receiving multiple requests to speak at banks and corporate boardrooms about her work, like a motivational guru. And there is also a clear note of opportunism. A former highly placed staff member at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) told me that the recent focus on plastics was widely seen within the department as a ministerial scramble for popular non-partisan policies to fill the void after the Brexit referendum. “[Michael] Gove was keen to show we could do it alone, and to show he was doing something good as environment secretary. It’s turned out both of those have worked really well for plastics,” the Defra staffer said.

Whatever politicians’ motivations, the public backlash has undoubtedly brought a serious environmental problem to the attention of the highest level of government and business, and convinced them it is a winning issue. Only a fraction of the proposed measures against plastic have been codified by law – the US and UK microbead bans are the exceptions – but the feeling is one of enormous potential.

D espite its ubiquitous presence in our lives, most people would struggle to tell you what plastic is, who makes it and where it came from. This is understandable: plastic is a global industrial product, made far from the public eye. The raw materials come from fossil fuels, and many of the same vast companies that produce oil and gas also produce plastic, often in the same facilities. The story of plastic is the story of the fossil fuel industry – and the oil-fuelled boom in consumer culture that followed the second world war.

Plastic is a catch-all term for the product made by turning a carbon-rich chemical mixture into a solid structure. In the 19th century, chemists and inventors were already making household objects such as combs from a brittle, early form of plastic, first called Parkesine, later renamed celluloid, after the plant cellulose from which it was made. But the modern age of plastic began with the invention of Bakelite in the US in 1907. Bakelite – a fully synthetic material that used phenol, a chemical left over from the process of turning crude oil or coal into petrol, as its starting point – is hard, shiny and brightly coloured. In other words, it is recognisable to us today as plastic. Its inventors intended to use Bakelite as an insulator for electrical wiring, but quickly realised its near-limitless potential, advertising it as the “material of a thousand uses”. This would prove to be a significant underestimate.

New varieties of plastic were developed over the next few decades, and the public was fascinated with this infinitely malleable wonder material that science had created. But it was the second world war that made plastic truly indispensable. With shortages of natural materials, and the enormous demands of the war effort, plastic’s potential to become nearly anything – using just “coal, water and air”, as the pioneering plastics chemist Victor Yarsley said in 1941 – made it vital to the state’s military machine. A Popular Mechanics article from 1943 describes troops’ visors and gunsights, mortar shell detonators and airplane canopies newly made of plastic. Military units, it was reported, had even begun using plastic bugles.

US plastic production more than tripled between 1939 and 1945, from 97,000 tonnes to 371,000 tonnes. After the war, chemical and petroleum giants consolidated the market between them. DuPont, Monsanto, Mobil and Exxon bought or developed plastic production facilities. This made logistical sense: these companies already supplied the raw material for plastic, in the form of phenol and naphtha, byproducts from their existing petroleum operations. By developing new plastic products – like Dow’s invention of Styrofoam in the 1940s, or the multiple patents held by Mobil for plastic films used in packaging – these companies were effectively creating new markets for their oil and gas. “The development of the petrochemical industry is probably the greatest single contributing factor in the growth of the plastics industry,” a researcher for Australia’s National Science Agency wrote in 1988.

In the decades of meteoric economic growth that followed the war, plastic began the inexorable rise that would see it replace cotton, glass and cardboard as the material of choice for consumer products. Thin plastic wrapping was introduced in the early 1950s, displacing the paper and cloth protecting consumer goods and dry cleaning. By the end of the decade, DuPont reported more than a billion plastic sheets sold to retailers. At the same time, plastic entered millions of homes in the form of latex paint and polystyrene insulation, vast improvements over pungent oil paint and expensive rockwool or wood fibre panels. Soon, plastic was everywhere, even outer space. In 1969, the flag that Neil Armstrong planted on the moon was made of nylon. The following year, Coke and Pepsi began replacing their glass bottles with plastic versions manufactured by Monsanto chemical and Standard Oil. “The hierarchy of substances is abolished: a single one replaces them all,” wrote the philosopher Roland Barthes, in 1972.

Buzz Aldrin with a nylon US flag planted on the moon in 1969. Photograph: Neil Armstrong/AP

But plastic did more than merely take the place of existing materials, leaving the world otherwise unchanged. Its unique properties – being simultaneously more malleable and easier to work with, and also far cheaper and lighter than the materials it replaced – actually helped kickstart the global economy’s shift to disposal consumerism. “Our enormously productive economy demands that we make consumption our way of life,” wrote the economist Victor Lebow in 1955. “We need things consumed, burned up, worn out, replaced and discarded at an ever-increasing pace.”

Plastic provided the perfect accelerant for this radical change, simply by being so cheap and easy to throw away. Just a year earlier, in 1954, Lloyd Stouffer, the editor of the trade journal Modern Plastics, was mocked in the press when he told an industry conference that “the future of plastics is in the trash can”. By 1963, he addressed the same conference fully vindicated: “You are filling the trash cans, the rubbish dumps and the incinerators with literally billions of plastics bottles, plastics jugs, plastics tubes, blisters and skin packs, plastics bags and films and sheet packages,” he crowed. “The happy day has arrived when nobody any longer considers the plastic package too good to throw away.”

Plastic meant profit. As one researcher from the Midwest Research Institute, an engineering research firm, wrote in 1969, “the powerful motive force behind the development of the throw-away container market is the fact that each returnable bottle displaced from the market means the sale of 20 non-returns”. In 1965, the Society for the Plastics Industry trade body reported that plastics had entered their 13th straight year of record growth.

But it also meant rubbish. In the US, prior to 1950, reusable packaging such as glass bottles had a nearly 96% return rate. By the 70s, the rate for all container returns had dropped below 5%. Disposability meant that a previously unimaginable number of items were being dumped into landfills. At a 1969 EPA conference on the growing waste problem, Rolf Eliassen, a science adviser to the White House, claimed “the social costs of collection, processing and disposal of these indestructible items is tremendous”.

What followed was a backlash against disposable culture in general, and plastic in particular, not unlike what we see today. In 1969, the New York Times reported that an “avalanche of waste and waste disposal problems is building up around the nation’s major cities in an impending emergency that may parallel the existing crises in air and water,” elevating garbage to the level of the major environmental concerns of the day. In 1970, two months before the first Earth Day celebration, President Nixon bemoaned “new packaging methods, using materials which do not degrade”, and complained that “we often discard today what a generation ago we saved”. New York City instituted a tax on plastic bottles in 1971, Congress debated a ban on all non-returnable containers in 1973, and the state of Hawaii banned plastic bottles entirely in 1977. A battle against plastic had begun, and at that moment, it seemed like it could be won.

F rom the start, the industry fought hard against all the proposed legislation. The New York City plastic bottle tax was struck down by the state supreme court the same year it was levied, following a lawsuit by the Society for the Plastics Industry alleging unfair treatment Hawaii’s plastic bottle ban was struck down in a state circuit court in 1979 after a similar lawsuit from a drinks company the congressional ban never got off the ground after lobbyists claimed it would hurt manufacturing jobs.

Having seen off these legislative threats, a loose alliance of oil and chemical companies, along with drinks and packaging manufacturers, pursued a two-part strategy that would successfully defuse anti-plastic sentiment for a generation. The first part of the strategy was to shift responsibility for litter and waste from companies to consumers. Rather than blaming the companies that had promoted disposable packaging and made millions along the way, these same companies argued that irresponsible individuals were the real problem. This argument was epitomised by a 1965 editorial in a US packaging trade journal headlined “Guns Don’t Kill People”, which blamed “the litterbugs who abuse our countryside” rather than the manufacturers themselves.

To help push this message, companies involved in plastics and other disposable packaging funded non-profit groups that highlighted the consumer’s responsibility for rubbish. One of these groups, Keep America Beautiful (KAB), founded in 1953 and funded by companies including Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Dow Chemical and Mobil, ran hundreds of adverts along these lines. “People start pollution. People can stop it”, stated their 1971 Earth Day campaign. KAB also engaged local civic and community groups to organise cleanups and address what it called the “national disgrace” of litter.

This work had merit, but by the mid-1970s, concern over KAB’s industry ties had led environmental groups such as the Sierra Club and the Izaak Walton League, as well as the US Environmental Protection Agency, to resign their advisory roles with the group. In 1976, newspapers reported that Russell Train, the director of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), circulated an angry memo claiming that KAB’s corporate backers were working to undermine anti-pollution legislation.

Framing litter as a personal failing was remarkably successful. In 1988, the year global plastic production pulled even with steel, Margaret Thatcher, picking up litter in St James’s Park for a photo op, captured the tone perfectly. “This is not the fault of the government,” she told reporters. “It is the fault of the people who knowingly and thoughtlessly throw it down.” Noticeably absent from her indictment was anyone who manufactured or sold plastic in the first place.

Plastic waste washed up on Christmas Island, Australia. Photograph: Daniela Dirscherl/Getty Images/WaterFrame RM

The second part of the industry’s strategy to allay public concern over pollution involved throwing its weight behind a relatively new idea: household recycling. In the 1970s, environmental groups and the EPA were exploring the novel idea that recycling – a familiar concept for large items such as cars, machinery and metal scrap – could be extended down to the community level to solve the growing consumer waste problem.

The packaging and drinks industries were quick to push the idea that recycling could keep their products out of landfill. In 1971, before plastic bottles were widespread, the Coca-Cola Bottling Company funded some of the world’s earliest depots for recycling household waste, such as glass and aluminium, in New York City.

The plastic industry took a similar tack, making grand claims about the potential for recycling their products. In 1988, the Society of the Plastics Industry trade association founded the Council for Solid Waste Solutions to promote plastic recycling in cities, claiming that they could recycle 25% of plastic bottles by 1995. In 1989, Amoco (formerly Standard Oil), Mobil and Dow formed the National Polystyrene Recycling Company, which claimed the same 25% target, also by 1995, but for food packaging. (A Mobil ad, published in Time magazine during that period, claimed polystyrene food packaging was “the scapegoat, not the problem” to the waste crisis – the solution was “more recycling”.) In 1990, yet another industry group, the American Plastics Council, was claiming that plastic would be “the most recycled material” by 2000.

The problem with these rosy predictions was that plastic is one of the worst materials for recycling. Glass, steel and aluminium can be melted and reformed a nearly infinite number of times to make new products of the same quality as the first. Plastic, by contrast, significantly degrades each time it is recycled. A plastic bottle cannot be recycled to make a plastic bottle of the same quality. Instead, recycled plastic becomes clothing fibres, or slats for furniture, which then might go on to be road filler, or plastic insulation, neither of which are further recyclable. Each stage is essentially a one-way ratchet towards landfill or the ocean. “The future of plastics recycling is still a total mystery”, the University of Wisconsin engineer Robert Ham said, in 1992, noting the limited number of things that plastic consumer products could become.

For the companies that recycled more profitable materials, such as aluminium, recycling plastic had limited commercial appeal. In the 1980s, as it became apparent that plastic recycling was not going to become a booming industry, the public sector stepped in. Recycling became largely state-funded, and plastic was hauled away along with the home rubbish pickup, while the industry continued to pump out more and more plastic. As congressman Paul B Henry told a hearing on container recycling in 1992, the plastics industry “claim to be big recycling advocates” while “kerbside recycling programmes rely almost entirely on government subsidies”. In other words, the government was stuck picking up the tab for the industry’s previous big talk on recycling. And the public were happy as long as someone was taking out the trash. To this day, some environmental campaigners refer to household pickup as “wish-cycling”, and recycling bins as a “magic box” that assuages people’s guilt without really helping much.

I n the intervening years, global plastic production has rocketed from some 160m tonnes in 1995 to 340m tonnes today. Recycling rates are still dismally low: less than 10% of all plastic in the US is recycled each year. Even if recycling rates were to miraculously spike, recycled plastic can only become a limited number of things, so there will always be a higher demand for new plastic. Roland Geyer, the University of California industrial ecologist, whose 2017 report Production, Use and Fate of All Plastics Ever Made has become a landmark reference for American and European policymakers, told me that he is “increasingly convinced that recycling simply does not work to reduce the amount of plastic in the world”.

And although the public’s enthusiasm for anti-plastic campaigns is partly motivated by the feeling that it is a simpler and more solvable problem than climate change, the two issues are more closely connected than most people realise. Seven of the 10 largest plastic producers are still oil and natural gas companies – as long as they are extracting fossil fuels, there will be a huge incentive to make plastic. A 2016 World Economic Forum report predicted that by 2050, 20% of all oil extracted across the world would go towards making plastic. “Ultimately, plastic pollution is the visible and tangible part of human-made global change,” the scientists Johanna Kramm and Martin Wagner wrote in a recent paper.

This is the paradox of plastic, or at least our current obsession with it: learning about the scale of the problem moved us to act, but the more we push against it, the more it begins to seem just as boundless and intractable as all the other environmental problems we have failed to solve. And it brings us up against the same obstacles: unregulatable business, the globalised world, and our own unsustainable way of life.

15 Brands You Didn’t Know Were Owned by PepsiCo or Coca-Cola

Are you a Coke person? Or a Pepsi person? Well, this list might change your answer.

Turns out a lot of food and beverage companies are owned by the big soda bros. Beyond the typical bubbly bevs, the list has everything from breakfast cereal to smoothies to hummus.

Photo courtesy of

Read on to find out if any of your favorite brands are owned by big soda companies.

Quaker Oatmeal: PepsiCo

Nothing better than starting your day with a hearty bowl of oatmeal with that cute little quaker man and his awkward hat. Turns out every time you enjoy a piping bowl of Quaker Oats, you’re consuming a Pepsi product. Surprised? Us too. Quaker up!

Life Cereal: PepsiCo

Photo courtesy of

Childhood memories, am I right? Life Cereal (among many other products) is a Quaker product. Quaker products are Pepsi products. Simple math – surprising results.

Tropicana: PepsiCo

What better to go with your oats than a cup of OJ? Turns out Tropicana is also owned by PepsiCo. Juicy juicy.

Sabra Hummus: PepsiCo

We didn’t see this one coming either. We all know that hummus is incredibly yummy, but did you know that this one in particular is made by PepsiCo?

Stacy’s Pita Chips: PepsiCo

Photo courtesy of

Well, if PepsiCo makes Sabra, it only makes sense they’d make a darn tootin’ dipper for it, right? Those commercials that document the careful crafting of these pita chips are just more genius marketing from PepsiCo.

Aunt Jemima: PepsiCo

With corn syrup as the first ingredient and high fructose corn syrup as the second, this syrup product is basically like a non-carbonated version of Pepsi you can pour on pancakes. Or spaghetti, if Elf is your style.

Naked Juice: PepsiCo

Ah yes, Naked juice. May your visions of a small health company hand-squeezing fresh-pressed juices be shattered by the realization that this is another PepsiCo product.

Cheetos: PepsiCo

Orange fingers, anyone? Cheetos are a Frito-Lays product. Turns out Frito-Lays is owned by PepsiCo. Which makes Cheetos (along with Fritos, Doritos, and Sun Chips) a PepsiCo product. The construction-cone orange would pair quite nicely with a highlighter green (PepsiCo-owned) Mountain Dew. Mm, neon.

Starbucks Bottled Beverages: PepsiCo

Photo courtesy of SpoonRocket

Starbucks to go? It’s PepsiCo, yo. Whenever you grab a bottled iced vanilla frap from your grocery store or CVS, turns out it’s a PepsiCo product. (This doesn’t apply to stuff you order/drink from Starbucks cafes.)

Lay’s Potato Chips: PepsiCo

Who doesn’t like to get lay’d? Every time you crunch’n’much, you’re nommin’ on yet another PepsiCo product.

Minute Maid: Coca-Cola

Photo courtesy of

More OJ made by a soda company. There’s a cause we can all drink to.

Simply Orange: Coca-Cola

Why would Coca-Cola own one OJ company, when they could own two?! Makes sense, right? With a slightly more wholesome image than Minute Maid, Simply Orange has that just-squeezed vibe. Marketing win.

Smartwater and Vitamin Water: Coca-Cola

Photo courtesy of

We’re not sure what makes this water smart, but the whole Glaceau brand is owned by Coca-Cola.

HonestTea: Coca-Cola

A Coca-Cola product you see at Whole Foods? Yup. HonestTea is made by Coca-Cola.

Odwalla: Coca-Cola

Photo courtesy of

Coca-Cola’s response to PepciCo’s Naked Juice. It looks so healthy and small business-like, doesn’t it? We wonder how they came up with the name.

Were you surprised by any of the brands on this list? It’s good to know that Coca-Cola and PepsiCo will continue their mythical rivalry even if everyone stops drinking soda.

Big Soda And The Ballot: Soda Industry Takes Cues From Tobacco To Combat Taxes

The sweetened beverage industry has spent millions to combat soda taxes and support medical groups that avoid blaming sugary drinks for health problems. Melissa Lomax Speelman/Getty Images hide caption

The sweetened beverage industry has spent millions to combat soda taxes and support medical groups that avoid blaming sugary drinks for health problems.

Melissa Lomax Speelman/Getty Images

Taxing soda is an increasingly popular approach to raising revenue while combating obesity, which affects 40 percent of American adults. But the sweetened-beverage industry is not about to go away quietly.

Ahead of the U.S. midterm elections, the soda industry poured millions of dollars into fighting taxes on sugary drinks. In recent years, it has been largely successful in shutting down new taxes, except in a handful of major cities.

The industry is now pushing statewide measures billed as grocery tax bans that strip cities and towns of their ability to tax soda. Two of these initiatives will be on the ballot Tuesday in Washington and Oregon. Arizona and Michigan already ban localities from enacting soda taxes.

In California, where four cities have soda taxes, the beverage industry pressured lawmakers this summer into accepting a 12-year moratorium on local taxes on sugar-sweetened drinks. Some lawmakers say Californians are being "held hostage" over the measure by the soda industry, which spent $7 million on a ballot initiative that would have made it much harder for cities to raise taxes of any kind. The beverage industry dropped the initiative after lawmakers agreed to the moratorium.

The sweetened-beverage industry is also cultivating relationships with doctors and scientists, which public health advocates say they've seen before. "There are definitely parallels with the tobacco industry," says Betsy Janes of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. Soda makers "are happy to take a page from their playbook."

The Salt

Sugar Shocked? The Rest Of Food Industry Pays For Lots Of Research, Too

That's because for years, tobacco companies used their lobbying clout to persuade state lawmakers to block cities and counties from passing smoke-free ordinances. By 2006, 21 states had pre-empted local smoke-free laws, according to Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights. Even today, 13 states have some sort of ban on local smoke-free laws.

By comparison more than 30 countries and seven U.S. cities — including Seattle, San Francisco and Boulder, Colo. — now tax sugary drinks.

Most public health advocates describe soda taxes as a proven way to reduce Americans' consumption of added sugars, which, along with other dietary factors, have been linked to 40,000 deaths from heart disease every year. A study published last year in PLOS One projects that Mexico's soda tax will prevent up to 134,000 cases of diabetes by 2030. And in Philadelphia, sales of sweetened beverages fell 57 percent after a city tax of 1.5 cents per ounce took effect, according to a 2017 study.

Soda companies are using their war chests to fund the Washington and Oregon ballot measures. Coca-Cola has contributed nearly half the $20 million raised in support of the Washington initiative, while the American Beverage Association has contributed about half the $5.6 million behind the Oregon measure, according to state records.

Tax impacts on business, health

PepsiCo, one of the largest soda companies, did not respond to calls or emails. Coca-Cola declined to comment on the issue, referring all questions to the American Beverage Association, which represents the soda industry. William Dermody, a spokesman for the beverage association, declined to comment on the comparison with Big Tobacco. But Dermody says the soda industry supports "keeping food and beverages affordable" and is "standing up for small business and working families" by supporting the ballot measures. Taxes on soda and other groceries "are harmful they raise prices and they cost jobs," he says.

The Salt

Philadelphians Drink Less Sugary Soda, More Water, After Tax

Health advocates say the ballot measures aren't really about groceries.

In Washington state, basic groceries are exempt from sales taxes, notes state Sen. Reuven Carlyle, a Seattle Democrat opposed to the initiative to limit cities' ability to tax soda. He recently tweeted: "Coke and Pepsi's undignified $22 million campaign to strip local gov't authority sent 11 campaign advertisements to my wife alone. Regardless of their short term wins, one day big soda will find their brand equity in the same league as the NRA, big tobacco, big oil."

Matthew Myers of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is a veteran of the tobacco wars. He notes that the tobacco industry fought smoke-free laws by warning that they would drive customers away from restaurants and bars. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that smoking bans increase business at bars and restaurants because customers enjoy clean air.

Similarly, research shows that Philadelphia's sugary drink tax hasn't hurt other aspects of the grocery business, Myers says. Although sales of sugary drinks have fallen, overall business at chain stores hasn't suffered, according to a 2017 study. A study of a soda tax in Berkeley, Calif., found similar results, with residents buying less soda but more bottled water.

Public health groups said they aren't giving up on soda taxes. In California, the state dental and medical associations have filed a ballot measure for 2020 to create a statewide tax on sugary drinks.

A show of financial force

Soda makers have plenty of money for a fight. The food and beverage industry spent $22.3 million in 2018 on lobbying, which includes $5.4 million by Coca-Cola and $2.8 million by PepsiCo. That's more than the tobacco industry, which spent $16.7 million on lobbying in 2018. In 1998, when the tobacco industry was under similar pressure, it spent $72 million on lobbying, according to

The tobacco industry also spent decades funneling money into research that made cigarettes look less harmful than they really were, Myers says. Now beverage companies are trying to win over scientists and medical societies too, says Marion Nestle, an emeritus professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University and author of "Unsavory Truth: How Food Companies Skew the Science of What We Eat."

Coca-Cola spent $146 million on "well-being related scientific research, partnership and health professional activities" from 2010 through 2017, according to the company's own records. A 2016 study found that Coca-Cola and PepsiCo funded 95 national medical organizations from 2011 to 2015, while lobbying against 29 public health bills that aimed to reduce soda consumption or improve diet. Coca-Cola funded the publication of 389 articles in 169 journals from 2008 to 2016, according to a study published this year in the journal Public Health Nutrition.

Nestle says no one should be surprised that industry-funded research tends to absolve soda from any role in causing obesity. Beverage industry research typically shifts the blame for obesity onto inactivity and "energy balance," suggesting that exercise is far more important to weight loss than cutting back on sugar and calories, she says.

While independent researchers have found evidence linking sugary drinks to obesity, heart disease and diabetes, Dermody questions the link between sugary drinks and obesity. Obesity has increased steadily over the past three decades. Yet in 2015, sales of carbonated soft drinks fell to their lowest level in 30 years, suggesting the obesity epidemic is being driven by something other than soda, Dermody says. He notes that half the soft drinks sold today have no calories. That shows that voluntary industry efforts to reduce sugar and calories in soft drinks are working, and that taxes aren't needed.

Medical groups and industry funds

A number of medical groups and universities stopped accepting soda industry funding in 2015 after extensive publicity of Coca-Cola's attempts to influence science. Most health groups — including the American Heart Association, American Cancer Society and American Diabetes Association – now support soda taxes.

The Salt

Un-Sweetened: How A Maryland County Cut Soda Sales Without A Soda Tax

But two medical groups have defied this trend.

In July, just after California lawmakers approved the moratorium on soda taxes, the Obesity Society, which represents doctors who treat overweight patients, issued a statement saying there's no proof that such measures will save lives.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, which includes dietitians, has taken a "neutral" stand on soda taxes, noting that "scientific evidence is insufficiently clear." In a statement similar to positions taken by the beverage industry, the nutrition academy said, "No single food or beverage leads to overweight or obesity when consumed in moderate amounts and within the context of the total diet."

Both the obesity and nutrition groups have had close relationships with the soda industry. Coca-Cola and PepsiCo were "premier sponsors" of the nutrition academy in 2016, according to the group's annual report. PepsiCo and Ocean Spray paid for "premium" exhibit booths at the nutrition academy's national conference in October. Booths that size cost $40,000 to $50,000 each.

In October, PepsiCo underwrote a special issue of the Obesity Society's journal, which was devoted entirely to the science of artificial sweeteners, at a cost of $26,880. Although PepsiCo paid the journal's publisher for the special issue, part of the money also went to the Obesity Society, says Dr. Steven Heymsfield, the group's president-elect. The Obesity Society has nurtured close ties with soda makers through a food industry engagement council. Past meetings were chaired by executives of PepsiCo and attended by employees of the Dr Pepper Snapple Group, now known as Keurig Dr Pepper.

Anthony Comuzzie, the Obesity Society's executive director, says the society has disbanded the food industry council. In an email, Comuzzie denied that the society's ties to industry have influenced its position on soda taxes. "To imply that the group or society collectively is biased by food companies has no basis in reality," he wrote.

But Nestle is not buying it.

"It is shameful that the academy is not strongly supporting public health measures to prevent obesity," Nestle says. "The academy's position puts it squarely on the side of the food industry and against public health."

When Did Sodas Get So Big?

The New York City Board of Health voted Thursday to ban the sale of sugary soft drinks larger than 16 ounces at restaurants, a move that has sparked intense debate between public health advocates and beverage industry lobbyists. When did sodas get so big in the first place?

In the 1930s. At the beginning of the Great Depression, the 6-ounce Coca-Cola bottle was the undisputed king of soft drinks. The situation began to change in 1934, when the smallish Pepsi-Cola company began selling 12-ounces bottles for the same nickel price as 6 ounces of Coke. The move was brilliant. Distribution, bottling, and advertising accounted for most of the company’s costs, so adding six free ounces hardly mattered. In addition, the 12-ounce size enabled Pepsi-Cola to use the same bottles as beer-makers, cutting container costs. The company pursued a similar strategy at the nation’s soda fountains, selling enough syrup to make 10 ounces for the same price as 6 ounces worth of Coca-Cola. Pepsi sales soared, and the company soon produced a jingle about their supersize bottles: “Pepsi-Cola hits the spot, 12 full ounces, that’s a lot. Twice as much for a nickel, too. Pepsi-Cola is the drink for you.” Pepsi’s value-for-volume gambit kicked off a decades-long industry trend.

Coke was slow to respond at first, according to author Mark Pendergrast, who chronicled the company’s history in For God, Country, and Coca-Cola: The Definitive History of the Great American Soft Drink and the Company That Makes It. President Robert Woodruff held firm to the 6-ounce size, even as his subordinates warned him that Pepsi was onto something. By the 1950s, industry observers predicted that Coca-Cola might lose its dominant position, and top company executives were threatening to resign if Woodruff didn’t bend on bottle size. In 1955, 10- and 12-ounce “King Size” Coke bottles hit the market, along with a 26-ounce “Family Size.” Although the new flexibility helped Coca-Cola regain its footing, the brave new world of giant bottles was hard to accept for some. Company vice president Ed Forio noted that “bringing out another bottle was like being unfaithful to your wife.”

The trend toward larger sizes occurred in all sectors of the market. When Coca-Cola partnered with McDonald’s in the 1950s, the original fountain soda at the restaurant chain more closely approximated the classic Coke bottle at seven ounces. The largest cup size grew to 16 ounces in the 1960s and hit 21 ounces by 1974.

While the argument over soft drink sizing in New York City has at times been acrimonious, it has historically been even uglier. When Coca-Cola was gaining traction in the early 20 th century, its leaders argued bitterly over whether they should go with a dainty 6-ounce bottle for sophisticated urbanites, or stick with the industry standard 8 ounces. The bottlers who advocated for the larger size insisted that it was more appropriate for the appetites of “negros.” (The term “black” didn’t gain legitimacy until the 1960s, with “African-American” gaining currency in the 1980s.) After Pepsi won market share by supersizing its bottles in the mid-20 th century, the company went on a campaign to convince white Americans that Pepsi wasn’t just for people of color.

California soda tax bill dies in another win for Big Soda

SACRAMENTO &mdash A rogue industry. A gun to our head. Extortion.

That&rsquos how infuriated lawmakers described soft drink companies &mdash and what they pulled off in 2018 when they scored a legislative deal that bars California&rsquos cities and counties from imposing taxes on sugary drinks.

Yet, the deep-pocketed industry continues to exert its political influence in the nation&rsquos most populous state, spending millions of dollars on politically connected lobbyists and doling out campaign contributions to nearly every state lawmaker.

The result? Bills long opposed by Coca-Cola Co., PepsiCo and other beverage companies continue to flounder. Just two weeks ago, a measure that would have undone the 2018 deal that lawmakers so vehemently protested was shelved without a hearing.

&ldquoBig Soda is a very powerful lobby,&rdquo said Eric Batch, vice president of advocacy at the American Heart Association, which has petitioned lawmakers nationwide to crack down on sugar-laden drinks that health advocates say contribute to diabetes, obesity and other costly medical conditions.

&ldquoThey&rsquove spent a lot of money in California to stop groups like ours from passing good policy,&rdquo Batch added. &ldquoAnd they&rsquove been doing it for a long time.&rdquo

In the past four year s , soft drink companies spent about $5.9 million lobbying California lawmakers and giving to their campaigns or favorite charities. A California Healthline analysis of campaign finance records from Jan. 1, 2017, to Dec. 31, 2020, found that the American Beverage Association, Coca-Cola and Pepsi have given to nearly every state officeholder &mdash from Gov. Gavin Newsom to roughly five-sixths of the 120-member legislature.

7-11 employee Rajan Bhatti checks if he needs to re-stock the soda refrigerators at the 7-11 on Mission Street in San Francisco, California, on Monday, Feb. 18, 2019.

Gabrielle Lurie / The Chronicle

The American Beverage Association declined an interview request to discuss its political giving and this year&rsquos bill that would have upended the soda tax moratorium it helped orchestrate. Coca-Cola and Pepsi did not return requests seeking comment.

In 2018, the industry spent $8.9 million to boost a statewide ballot measure sponsored by the California Business Roundtable that would have made it more difficult for cities and counties to levy taxes &mdash not just taxes on sugary drinks &mdash by requiring them to be approved by two-thirds of voters instead of a simple majority. Fearful that local governments could face a higher voting threshold for taxes and fees that would fund services, lawmakers at the time said they had no choice but to negotiate with the industry.

In a deal that several lawmakers described as &ldquoextortion,&rdquo the legislature agreed to pass a bill banning new local taxes on sugary drinks until Jan. 1, 2031, if the industry and other supporters dropped the ballot measure. Then-Gov. Jerry Brown, who had dined with industry executives several weeks before, signed the bill.

The California deal was a coup for Big Soda: Legislation that would have imposed a state tax on sugary drinks died a year later, as did a bill that would have required health warning labels on sugary drinks and another that would have banned sodas in grocery store checkout aisles.

This year&rsquos bill, which would have reinstated cities and counties&rsquo ability to put soda taxes before voters, is all but dead.

&ldquoThey&rsquore gaming the political system,&rdquo said Assembly member Adrin Nazarian (D-North Hollywood), the author of AB 1163. Nazarian said he hopes to revive the measure before April 30, the deadline for policy committees to hear legislation for the year.

Public health advocates point to such taxes as a way to cut consumption of soda, sports drinks, fruit juices and other sweet beverages, citing studies that show the more they cost, the less people buy them. On average, a can of soda contains 10 teaspoons of sugar, nearly the entire recommended daily amount for someone who eats 2,000 calories a day. Some energy drinks contain twice that.

(l-r) Friends Josue llamas,15 and Carlos Ramirez, 16 exit 7-11 after buying Big Gulp sodas on Mission Street in San Francisco, California, on Monday, Feb. 18, 2019.

Gabrielle Lurie / The Chronicle

Four California cities &mdash Albany, Berkeley, Oakland and San Francisco &mdash had soda taxes in place before the 2018 legislative deal that were allowed to remain.

The revenue stream from the taxes could help fund financially strapped public health departments depleted by the COVID-19 pandemic, health advocates say.

For example, last year San Francisco directed $1.6 million of its soda tax revenue to local programs that feed residents affected by school closures and job losses.

Nazarian, like lawmakers before him, is butting up against a strong anti-tax environment in U.S. politics, said Tatiana Andreyeva, director of economic initiatives at the University of Connecticut&rsquos Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity. So, while more than 40 countries have imposed national taxes on sugary drinks &mdash including the United Kingdom, Mexico, Portugal and South Africa &mdash national and state efforts have stalled here.

There&rsquos also the political might of the soda industry.

&ldquoLook at how much money they spend fighting all these bills that have been proposed,&rdquo said Andreyeva, who has studied the soda industry since 2007.

In California, soft drink companies spent $4.4 million in the past four years lobbying lawmakers and state officials, treating them to dinners and sporting events. They hired veteran political firms staffed by former government employees who know how the Capitol works and often already have relationships with lawmakers and their aides.

The Latest Battle of the GOP’s Culture War Is Somehow Even Dumber Than the Last

Photo Illustration by Joe Rodriguez. Images used in Illustration: Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto/AP Images (Coke) Justin Rex/AP Images (Abbott) Olivier Douliery/AP Images (Cruz) Greg Nash (Paul) Graeme Sloan/AP Images (McConnell) Rich Schultz/Getty Images (Braves player)

Georgia was one of the most reliable conservative strongholds in the nation before it voted for President Joe Biden last November and then, two months later, a pair of Democratic senators. The state’s still-very-Republican legislature has since been doing all it can to make sure this never happens again, and last month passed a restrictive new voting law aimed squarely at discouraging people from participating in democracy. People aren’t happy. Neither are a lot of pretty prominent corporations. Coca-Cola and Delta, both based with their corporate headquarters in Atlanta, have spoken out against the law, while Major League Baseball pulled its All-Star Game out of Atlanta.

Republicans are well aware that the more Americans whose voices are represented, the less of a chance they have to win elections. Most of their policy positions are deeply unpopular among the American public. The only way they can appeal to said public, then, is to drown out all of the pesky policy mumbo jumbo by cranking the culture war into overdrive. It’s why they lost their minds last month hammering the false idea that Democrats had “canceled” Dr. Seuss and Mr. Potato Head. This time, it’s Republicans who are doing the canceling in response to the backlash to Georgia’s voting law, and they’ve set their sights primarily on the MLB and Coca-Cola, which are right next to apple pie and fireworks on the Americana power rankings.

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Let’s start with baseball. Republicans have spent the past week bashing the MLB for its decision to move the All-Star Game out of Atlanta, something they brought upon themselves by restricting voting access. Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) announced he’s going to draft legislation to remove the league’s antitrust exception, setting off a Twitter chain in which Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) agreed, with the latter labeling the league “woke.” Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) even tried to equate access to the democratic process with access to ticketed baseball games. “If needing to show an ID to vote is racist, perhaps NY Yankees tickets that average over $100 are discriminatory?” he tweeted. “Will &lsquowoke&rsquo @MLB mandate free tickets to to allow equal access?”

On Tuesday, Paul’s fellow Kentuckian in the Senate, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, channeled his inner mob boss in warning corporations like the MLB, Coke, and Delta to stay out of politics. He made sure to clarify that he still wants their money.

NEWS: #McConnell in Kentucky calls actions of #MLB, #Coke, and #Delta in opposition of Georgia voting law ‘stupid.’ ‘My warning to corporate America is to stay out of politics,’ he says. ‘I’m not talking about political contributions, he adds.

&mdash Nancy Ognanovich (@NOgnanovich) April 6, 2021

But the most incensed among them may have been Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who not only refused to throw out the first pitch at the Texas Rangers’ home opener on Monday, but nixed the idea of Texas hosting the All-Star Game or any other Major League Baseball special events in the future. “It is shameful that America’s pastime is being influenced by partisan politics,” Abbott wrote, calling the idea that Georgia’s new voting law is aimed at decreasing turnout a “false narrative.”

Republicans have leaned on this “false narrative” argument because otherwise they’d have to admit that what is true is true, which is that they don’t want people to vote. This is pretty blatantly what the new Georgia law is trying to accomplish. It criminalizes offering food or water to people waiting in voting lines, which have become increasingly long as the GOP has closed polling sites. It allows unlimited challenges to a voter’s registration status, a move that has been used to racially profile and intimidate voters. It erects more barriers to voting by mail. It bans mobile voting sites. The list goes on.

Abbott’s message to Texas baseball fans is that throwing a cultural counterpunch against anyone who opposes these measures is more important than promoting a national pastime cherished by millions of his constituents. It worked out in the end, though. Instead of Abbott, who put up more resistance to instituting Covid-19 mitigation measures than just about any governor in America, the first pitch was thrown out by a teacher who lost family members to the virus. A health care worker served as the catcher.

Turning their backs on baseball might not be a great look for Republican lawmakers, but it doesn’t compare to the personal sacrifice some other conservatives are making in order to own the libs on the voting rights issue: willfully drinking Pepsi.

Coca-Cola, an iconic Southern institution if there ever was one, wasn’t a huge fan of the move to restrict voting, either. The company’s CEO, James Quincy, said last week that the bill is “a step backward” and “does not promote principles we have stood for in Georgia, around broad access to voting, around voter convenience, about ensuring election integrity.”

In response, a bunch of Georgia state lawmakers are now banning Coke products from their offices. A masterstroke.

Some Georgia Republican state legislators are removing @CocaCola products from their statehouse offices after the Atlanta-based beverage giant criticized the new elections law. #gapol

&mdash Greg Bluestein (@bluestein) April 3, 2021

Republican House Speaker David Ralston wasn’t among the signatories, but last week he reportedly made a spectacle out of cracking open a can of Pepsi in front of a bank of cameras. It was practically an act of heresy in state where “Coke” is so ubiquitous that the name is used to describe all soda, not just Coca-Cola.

It’s “not that bad, actually,” Ralston said later of Pepsi, admitting, however, that he couldn’t finish the entire can.

One Republican who isn’t much for making such concessions: former President Donald Trump. Despite famously using a call button to summon Diet Cokes to the Oval Office, Trump on Saturday called for a boycott of the company, along with Delta several others who spoke out against Georgia’s new voting restrictions. “Don’t go back to their products until they relent,” Trump wrote in a statement. “We can play the game better than them.”

But on Monday, Trump adviser Stephen Miller posted a photo of himself with the president, who appears to be attempting to hide a Coca-Cola product behind a phone on his desk.

Despite Trump’s call to boycott Coca-Cola 48 hours ago, there is a Coke bottle behind the phone on the right side of his desk.

&mdash Frank Luntz (@FrankLuntz) April 5, 2021

“Do as a I say not as I do,” as it turns out, can refer to drinking soda just as much as it can refer to condoning extremist violence.

Notably absent from all of this is Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), one of the the GOP’s most trollish culture warriors who surely would have added another layer of stupidity on the party’s war against the Georgia’s voting law’s corporate detractors. Unfortunately, Gaetz is busy contending with the news that he’s under investigation for sex trafficking a 17-year-old girl.

Watch the video: Coca-Cola, Pepsi Block Soda Ban In NYC


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