Coca-Cola has demanded the removal of an environmental exhibition at OR Tambo International Airport. (AP Photo/Coca Cola Co., Rodger Macuch)

Coca-Cola’s demand for the removal of an environmental exhibition at OR Tambo International Airport is “absurd”, say soft-drink competitors SodaStream.

SodaStream, the creators of the piece, say the exhibit is part of the “Help Free the World from Bottles” campaign, which aims to show the amount of discarded plastic bottles that end up in landfills.

A cage filled with 5 078 plastic cooldrink bottles, on display at the airport, is at the centre of the dispute. The number of bottles is the amount the average SA family use and discard over three years, SodaStream says.

SodaStream is a fizzy drink made by consumers at home using water, syrup, re-usable glass bottles and a carbonating machine – all sold to the consumer by the carbonated drinks seller.

SodaStream SA says Coca-Cola’s lawyers sent them a letter last week, demanding the exhibition be taken down, saying the plastic bottles on display constituted an “unauthorised” use of Coca-Cola, Sprite and Fanta trademarks.

SodaStream characterised the demand as “absurd” in a statement on Monday. They say they will remove the exhibition only when it ends on July 8 at the airport’s domestic departures lounge.

“The truth is that plastic bottles destroy our planet; 340 billion bottles around the world still end up in landfills every year,” says SodaStream SA’s managing director, Francois Dippenaar.

SodaStream’s website has a digital counter which states the number of bottles they have apparently “saved” from landfills. As of last night, the number stood at about 1.8 billion.

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The Star