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Mar 30, 2000

Coke bottles go plastic

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We’ve bought them for 39 years, soft drinks in glass bottles. But now Belizeans, like their neighbors in Mexico can opt for a plastic container. They cost a little more, but you don’t have to worry about what to do with the pint, or do you? Concern that the disposable bottles for Coke, Sprite and Fanta may not get disposed of properly and will litter the highways and waterways led News Five to ask Bowen and Bowen, and soft drink lovers, a few questions.

Janelle Chanona, Reporting

“Why you prefer drink Coke out the plastic bottle?”

Child #1

“Cause it nice.”

Janelle Chanona

“It wasn’t nice out the glass one?”

Child #1

Shakes head no.

Child #2

“I prefer carrying it in a bottle cause you can’t carry it in a glass and then you could put it up and then when you going on a trip, then you could put it up.”

Ysane Manger, Shop Keeper

“They love it. Especially when it’s frozen, we put it in the freezer for them and they go crazy for it.”

All this bubbling over about the new bottle is music Coca-Cola’s ears. And so is a little fact you might not know: Belizeans drink more coke products than anyone else in the region. Since day one, 1961 to be exact, we’ve been popping the metal caps off the glass bottles to get at it. But this year, Bowen and Bowen Limited decided to add plastic. Five weeks and five million dollars later plastic bottles already account for 10% of total sales.

Nick Pollard Jr., Sales Manager

“Sales are going extremely well. We are very very happy with the response. We can see consumers carrying the package as a convenience package.”

While many consumers like it, the difference in material has created a stir among environmentalists and even some consistent coke drinkers. When the product was launched on February 21st, the company attached two words the plastic package, “non-returnable.” Bowen and Bowen defends itself by pointing out that this is true of every other plastic bottle on the market today. And, they say a return program is coming soon.

Nick Pollard

“As we know, one way plastic containers have been coming into Belize for over 15 years and there’s been no noise about these packages. These packages can be seen from north to south on the by-ways in the streets, in the resorts and nobody has said anything about them. Of course with Bowen and Bowen being the big bottler that we are, we are seen as a company that has to be responsible to the environment and we want the public to know we are responsible to the environment.”

Janelle Chanona

There’s no denying these bottles are trendy and convenient but… they’re also good for a hook shot. Will Belizean consumers make the same efforts to return the plastic as they did the glass?

Harrison Cadle, Boat Captain

“For me, I would drink a Coke, a plastic bottled Coke, and I’d throw it away in the garbage, but if other people buying the soft drink just throw it away in the ocean, that would be very bad.

If the company would have it recycled it would be very good cause I think everyone would try. Well people who de try hustle pan de edge, try hustle to make money, they’d pick it up and make some money, you know?”

Bowen and Bowen believes five cents a pop should do the trick.

Nick Pollard, Jr.

“It’s a buy back program where the bottles, Coca Cola, Fanta and Sprite only will be purchased back from the consumers at five cents each. These bottles will be stored in bins all over the country and then the machinery that is coming in will grind these bottles and then we will dispose of them in a very environmental, safe way.”

Pollard says the grinding truck should arrive in the next two weeks. He says the company is exploring different ways of disposing the plastic chips, like using them instead of sand and stone for cement and melting the caps to use in electrical fittings. So, has the glass bottle used up its 15 minutes of fame?

Nick Pollard Jr.

“We feel that the returnable glass will remain a strong package in Belize. There are many consumers, who enjoy their favorite restaurant menu and in the restaurants, people do not have to take away the package so the returnable glass will still remain a favorite to many consumers.”

While they’re waiting for the truck to arrive, Bowen and Bowen has put bins at all distributors to collect the plastic bottles. They say they expect plastic will eventually account for about one third of total sales. There are no plans right now to market anything other than the one-liter and half liter sizes.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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