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Canned Diet Coke Offers Smaller Carbon Footprint

A can of diet Coke or Coke Zero both have a 150g carbon footprint, compared to 170g for regular Coca-Cola. Toss the empty can in the recycling bin and the footprint shrinks to 85g.

Producing and disposing of a can of Coca-Cola in the U.K. generates about 170 grams of greenhouse gas emissions. Swap that aluminum can for a glass bottle, however, and the carbon footprint doubles.

Feel guilty? A can of diet Coke or Coke Zero each have a slimmer 150g carbon footprint. Toss the empty can in the recycling bin and the footprint shrinks to 85g.

Coca-Cola U.K., with assistance from the government-funded Carbon Trust, performed lifecycle assessments on the three drinks by studying the amount of emissions generated by the products' ingredients, manufacture, packaging, distribution, use and disposal.

The exercise showed the largest slice of the drinks' carbon footprint comes from packaging: anywhere from 30 percent to 70 percent, depending on the container.

For example, packaging accounts for 56.4 percent of the carbon footprint of a 330ml can of Coca-Cola. The proportion grows to 68.5 percent for a glass bottle of the same size.

Boosting the recycled content of the packaging and recycling the empty vessels can significantly reduce the overall carbon footprint by as much as 60 percent, the company's research found. In response, the company is introducing a series of Recycle Zones across the country.

Coca-Cola aluminum cans in the U.K. contain roughly 50 percent recycled content; glass bottles are made with about 40 percent recycled glass.

"A clear measurement of the carbon emissions of individual products is a vital step on our journey to reduce them and to achieve our goal of operating in a responsible and sustainable way," Sanjay Guha, president of Coca-Cola, Great Britain and Ireland, said in a statement. "As we move forward, we will look to integrate the carbon footprint information with other key environmental impacts, for example water, and explore how best to share the total environmental impact of our products with consumers."

Other companies, including Tesco, innocent, Walkers and Boots, have performed product lifecycle assessments with Carbon Trust's assistance, and are exploring different marketing mediums to share the results with their customers. Coca-Cola's carbon footprint information is available on its website.

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