Aluminum packaging is coming for your water as Coca-Cola’s Dasani brand takes the plunge

Coca-Cola’s Dasani brand is the latest company pitching bottled water to go the aluminum can route.

It’s part of a broader rejiggering of the water brand’s plans to use mostly recycled material for their water bottles by 2030.

The company is debuting a hybrid bottle that’s made from half renewable and recycled PET plastic in addition to new PET plastic. Consumers can expect those bottles to hit store shelves by mid-2020, according to the company.

Coca-Cola is also going to be rolling out more Dasani PureFill water dispensers (fancy water fountains) for its corporate installations as an expansion of its Coca-Cola Freestyle mix and match soda dispensing products, the company said.

Finally, and most interestingly (at least to this reporter), Coke is going to introduce aluminum cans across the northeastern U.S. in the fall. A national expansion and a rollout of new aluminum bottles is planned for 2020, according to the company.

“Designing our packages to reduce the amount of raw materials used and incorporating recycled and renewable content in our bottles to help drive a circular economy for our packaging is an important part of our commitment to doing business the right way,” said Sneha Shah, group director, Packaging Innovation, Coca-Cola North America. “We are working diligently to continually reduce our overall environmental footprint through smarter package design and procurement of recycled and renewable materials while continuing to deliver exceptional consumer experiences.”

Coke’s moves follow similar announcements from the competition.

Earlier this year, Pepsi’s Aquafina brand announced the introduction of aluminum cans for its own water distribution business.

All of these companies are responding to concerns about the profusion of plastics in the environment and increasing consumer concerns about what this proliferation of plastic waste may mean for human life and health.

Researchers recently discovered plastic microfibers in rainwater in the Rocky Mountains, and plastics are also showing up in the food supply (primarily in fish). It’s unclear what impact these plastics may have on people, but perhaps the best recourse is not to have to find out.

There’s another reason that both Coke and Pepsi are beginning to roll out aluminum packaging for their water: Competition.

The brains behind Vita Coco recently launched a new water brand called Ever and Ever, which the company claims is taking significant market share from Dasani and Aquafina in the places where it’s being sold.

And aluminum is better for the environment. “Because the majority of aluminum is made from recycling… emissions on a recycled aluminum product are much lower than a PET,” says Michael Kirban, the chief executive of Vita Coco. 

The company launched its own foray into the aluminum-packaged water category after working with Lonely Whale, a nonprofit that focuses on ocean environmental issues.

“We’re in mostly tetrapack and mostly in cans and in certain instances in plastic bottles,” said Kirban. “We brought them in last year to talk about how we could offset our own impact. The idea came about with them as they were launching a campaign against plastic water bottles.”

Then there’s Liquid Death, the company whose more than $1 million financing from the venture investment studio Science launched a thousand sneers on Twitter before eventually being embraced.

If anything, the moves by Coke and Pepsi (along with Liquid Death, Ever and Ever and other brands) shows that corporations are finally taking at least some small steps to try to reduce the environmental impact of their packaging and logistics decisions.

It’s worth noting that there are other ways to ensure that potable water is available universally without having to pay for additional packaging — paying money to upgrade water infrastructure so everyone in the U.S. has access to clean, delicious drinking water. Tap water could be good enough if cities and states were willing to adhere to already established laws around water quality.