Israeli company SodaStream, recently acquired by global beverage giant PepsiCo for $3.2 billion, has built a solid reputation as an environmentally conscious drinks developer, advocating strongly for the discontinuation of single-use plastic bottles within the industry and promoting reusable ones, while touting its products as a healthy alternative to fizzy drinks loaded with sugar
Last year, the developer of drinks making units and flavors, won Business Intelligence Group’s 2017 Global Corporate Sustainability Award for its line of eco-friendly sparkling water makers. Earlier this year, the PR-savvy SodaStream launched a series of limited-edition bottles in honor of the wedding of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle, donating the proceeds to Surfers Against Sewage, a British marine conservation charity that works to protect oceans and marine life.
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Now, SodaStream is taking matters into its own hands, so to speak, launching a new initiative to rid the waters of plastic waste, only nine percent of which is recycled. Earlier this month, SodaStream launched “Holy Turtle” – a massive contraption designed to clean plastic waste from open waters as part of an ambitious clean-up operation led by SodaStream CEO Daniel Birnbaum.
The “Holy Turtle” is a 1,000 ft. (300 meter) long floating unit designed to be gently towed by two marine vessels in open waters, SodaStream said in a statement, adding that the device was. “uniquely engineered to capture floating waste while its large vent holes act to protect wildlife.” The design was inspired by oil spill containment systems and developed by the Florida-based manufacturer and designer of oil spill containment systems ABBCO.
The device was piloted in the Caribbean Sea, off the coast of Roatán, Honduras, with 150 SodaStream executives from 45 countries teaming up with the Amsterdam-based environmental NGO Plastic Soup, as well as international environmental specialists, hundreds of children from seven local schools in Honduras and government officials, for the initiative.
Birnbaum told Business Insider that, based on rough estimates, the contraption could collect 20 tons of trash in one go.
The operation took place over four days starting October 7, with the participants attending beach clean-up activities, listening in on guest lectures, workshops, as well as other events. The schoolchildren received educational sessions from environmental experts to become ambassadors for the environment within their communities, SodaStream said.
The company said Birnbaum conceived of the idea after watching a video featured on the BBC last year showing the works of underwater photographer Caroline Power highlighting a floating trash patch off the Caribbean coast of the island Roatán.
“It was one of the most devastating and disgusting thing that you could imagine to see in the water…One the surface you could see plastic floating and underneath the surface there was plastic bag after plastic bag. It was just unbelievable. And it was just everywhere,” Power told the BBC.
Birnbaum was moved by the disturbing video and began looking for a solution to clean up this floating waste. “We can’t clean up all the plastic waste on the planet, but we each need to do whatever we can. The most important thing is to commit ourselves to stop using single-use plastic,” he says.
“More than 8 million tons of plastic goes into the ocean every year. This plastic doesn’t disappear. It breaks up into tiny particles, floats in the ocean, endangers marine life and ends up in our food chain,” he adds. “We must all put our hands together to reduce the use of single-use plastic and commit ourselves to changing our habits and go reusable. It’s in our hands.”
According to National Geographic, about 18 million pounds of plastic waste flow into the oceans every year from coastal regions. Some 40 percent of the plastic produced worldwide is for single-use packaging, according to the report.
SodaStream said this initiative was the “first-known attempt of a commercial company to undertake a physical clean-up of trash from open waters.” It is estimated to have cost over $1 million, according to Business Insider, including building “Holy Turtle,” travel, and clean-up activities.
The waste collected by the “Holy Turtle” will be used in an exhibition to raise awareness and educate consumers toward reducing consumption of single use plastic, including cups, straws, bags and bottles.
Birnbaum told Business Insider that the contraption will remain in Honduras for local initiatives to use. The device is unpatented so others can use the design, he said.
The deal to acquire SodaStream is set to close in January 2019, after which it will become a subsidiary of PepsiCo. Birnbaum will stay on as CEO to lead the company’s growth.