In one of the most unusual corporate mash-ups in recent history, the soft drink giant has teamed up with the furniture manufacturer Emeco to produce a new chair made from its recycled plastic bottles.
It's true: many of those evil discarded plastic bottles which litter the streets and end up in landfills will now be repurposed into a sustainable designer chair - the 111 Navy Chair - each made from approximately 111 recycled 20 oz. bottles.
That might seem pricey for some old bottles but it's actually about half the price of Emeco's original Navy chair, a design classic which was in fact first made for Navy submarines in 1944 and is now popular in high-end design restaurants and cafes (either in in the real or knockoff versions). So now you can own chairs with clean lines and a retro-iconic shape.
Now let's talk green. There can never be enough recycling, so making chairs out of old Coke (or any other brand) bottles gets a thumbs up. What's more, this chair is locavore: the recycled plastic comes from Coca-Cola's Spartanburg, South Carolina plant and is shipped to a manufacturing facility in nearby North Carolina. No low-wage sweatshop here; no high carbon footprint shipping from China, or wherever. It's all made in the USA.
However, if you're an anti-corporate, anti-Coca-Cola type, this chair might give you pause. One could argue it's a ploy by the soda elites to polish their green image and appear to solve their big recycling problem - by making you buy what some would consider an expensive chair.
But think about what Emeco chairman Gregg Buchbinder, talking to us from Milan where the chair is debuts this week at the Milan furniture fair, has to say. While he knows that selling these chairs won't obviously solve the recycling problem, he believes it might get other big companies and design firms to think more about materials and life cycle impact and environmental issues than purely aesthetics. "Hopefully we can create a big enough message to inspire others," Buchbinder says.