Miami Beach ditches Coke, picks Pepsi as plastic-free drink sponsor

The city of Miami Beach is breaking up with Coca-Cola as the city’s exclusive water and soft drink sponsor after Coke wouldn’t reduce the plastic packaging for its products.

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – The city of Miami Beach is breaking up with Coca-Cola as the city’s exclusive water and soft drink sponsor after Coke wouldn’t reduce the plastic packaging for its products.

On Wednesday, the city officially announced its new partner — PepsiCo North America — which is committing to a green new deal with the city without a lot of that plastic.

“Pepsi is interested and willing to deliver solutions that customers want,” clean water advocate Dave Doebler said.

And what Miami Beach wants is to go plastic-free, so when the city’s 10-year beverage sponsorship deal with Coca-Cola expired in December, Miami Beach leaders made it very clear they would not renew with Coke if the company did not commit to dramatically reducing its plastic packaging, which back then, Coke did not.

The city is now making it official after Pepsi stepped up with a $2.3 million, 10-year deal that is 100% plastic-free for all sodas and waters sold in city-owned venues, public parks and beaches.

From now on, only sodas and waters packaged in recyclable aluminum will be served.

“There’s a new business reality — consumers are becoming more interested in the future of the planet and the society. And we’re not afraid to take bold steps, right, to make sure that we’re changing the way we do business,” said Paul Mihovilovic, PepsiCo Vice President of Food Services South Division.

Doebler has been pushing for this since 2015 when he served on the city’s sustainability committee.

“Only 9% of plastic is ever recycled,” he said.

And every year, thousands of plastic bottles and caps pollute our backyard and are among the top three collected items on all cleanups.

“Not only are we removing hundreds of thousands of single-use plastic bottles over the course of the next 10 years from our beaches, it is also changing the direction of the industry. We’re using our purchasing power to tell (the) industry that we want plastic-free options,” Doebler said.

And the industry is starting to listen. Coca-Cola even came back to the city with another proposal with less plastic, but Pepsi was far more committed to reducing even more of its plastic footprint.

“I gave them a goal that we should get plastic-free at least 100% at some point during the contract,” Miami Beach Commissioner David Richardson said.

Right now, Gatorade and other juices under Pepsi’s brand are only available in plastic bottles, but as part of its pep-positive sustainability initiative, Pepsi is already fixing that.

“There’s so much innovation going on in the background right now,” Mihovilovic said. “How do we bring more sustainable packaging and sustainable solutions to the forefront?”

As part of the deal, Pepsi will also be installing soda stream stations at city-owned venues like the Convention Center.

“It really brings excitement to sustainability as folks bring their own vessels, their own bottles to fill up instead of using single-use plastic,” Mihovilovic said.

Pepsi is also partnering with Florida bottled Proud Source Water, packaged in aluminum.

“We shouldn’t be focused on single-use at all,” Doebler said. “And so, the beauty of this is that it’s reusable and can be refilled at well over 100 free and pay-per-use water refill stations throughout Miami Beach.”

“I think that’s amazing — whatever we can do to reuse things and reduce our footprint is good for the beach and good for Miami,” Christy Pierce, who is visiting from Charleston, said.

Now it’s game on as Miami Beach is encouraging other cities to do the same. It is, after all, according to the new FDEP report, what the majority of Floridians are demanding — a lot less plastic.

“The entire industry needs to reduce their plastic footprint,” Doebler said. “It is unsustainable to deliver single-use water bottles and soda in plastic bottles.”

Even if you throw a plastic bottle into the recycling bin, chances are it’s never going to be a plastic bottle again. A recycled aluminum can, however, will become another can back on store shelves in less than 60 days. Plus, aluminum has monetary value — 65 cents per pound — which is why Pepsi is also installing more recycling bins, to try and recapture as many cans as possible.

About the Author:

Louis Aguirre is an Emmy-award winning journalist who anchors weekday newscasts and serves as WPLG Local 10’s Environmental Advocate.