The Coca Cola Company has been selling purified and artificially remineralized tap water as Dasani (or Bonaqa in Germany) since 1999. The purification process is complex and intricate, which makes it a costly alternative to other potable water brands. I find the notion of purity very interesting: Natural water is per se something to be purified, filtered and rid of the naturally present minerals, in order to reconstruct it according to an idea how water should be. The purification process is here not only a treatment of possibly contaminated water: It is part of a global synchronization process, whose goal is to make a bottle of water to be fully replaceable by another one – all over the world. Very much like McDonald’s has created the ideal burger, which is supposed to taste and look the same, no matter if I order it in Beijing, Zurich or Lima Airport.
While Dasani has become a market success in the US, Coca Cola decided to withdraw the brand from the UK, after potentially carcinogen chemicals were found in the processed water:
“Through detailed analysis, we discovered that our product did not meet our quality standards. Because of the high level of bromide contained in the calcium chloride, a derivate of bromide, bromate, was formed at a level that exceeded UK legal standards. This occurred during the ozonisation process we employ in manufacturing.”
The fact that the tap water was purer in the first place than the purified water exposed the company to lots of ridicule and the decision to withdraw from the UK market was very likely an attempt to contain the damage.
Nevertheless, Dasani ranges among the most consumed bottled water brands in the States. A new publicity ploy tries to add another surplus value besides pureness: sustainability. The Dasani Plant Bottle is claimed to be made from up to 30% plant-based material, the rest of recycled PET. As the website claims, the Coca Cola Company contributes to “future, where every plastic bottle is made from materials that are 100% renewable as well as recyclable”.
Just like the implicit claim that purified water is purer than the natural base material, also this ploy is based on interesting implicit assumptions: 1. We will need bottled water in the future, 2. Renewable plastic material is a real alternative because 3. it is a natural product. In this, these assumptions resemble very much those associated with “Biodiesel”, where the the prefix Bio- not only implies that its made of living organisms (in contrast to fossil fuels), but that it’s actually good for the environment.
The commercial for the Danasi PlantBottles suggest this by making a bottle grow out of a plant: Whereas the original idea of purity is based on making the water purer than nature, the PlantBottle is being represented as a natural product again. Or at least up to 30%, for the time being.
A satirical overdubbing of the posted by the Nautical Tribe (a TV show I didn’t know so far) calls attention to this paradox: Designed to make a difference, as the PlantBottle claim goes, turns out to be Designed to fake a difference and a greenwashing attempt.