There’s nothing better than ice cold Coca-Cola, right? Santa Claus drinks it, baby polar bears drink it, beautiful smiling people on TV drink it. Based on Coca-Cola’s advertising, you’d think the world would have exploded into a perpetual state of happiness by now.

But it hasn’t. And now that I’ve broken free from my sugar-trance, it’s clear that Coca-Cola is actually selling the opposite of what it advertises. Sure, it’s useful as a toilet bowl cleaner, stain remover, garden fertilizer and pest control. But as a beverage, the cons far outweigh the pros.

In fact, let’s tally them up.

Pros: It tastes good.

Cons: Everything else. See below.

Keep in mind, this article applies to all sugary drinks, not just Coca-Cola. You’ll see why we’re singling out Coke in three… two… one.

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1. Coca-Cola is the leading contributor of plastic pollution

In a 51 country plastic pollution audit by Break Free From Plastic, Coca-Cola products showed up most for the second consecutive year. Of the 475,000 plastic items collected, 11,732 pieces in 37 different countries belonged to Coke – more than the next top three polluters combined.

If the results of the audit don’t piss you off, their response will. Coca-Cola told The Intercept “Any time our packaging ends up in our oceans — or anywhere that it doesn’t belong — is unacceptable to us. In partnership with others, we are working to address this critical global issue, both to help turn off the tap in terms of plastic waste entering our oceans and to help clean up the existing pollution.”

First of all, I’m not sure if Coca-Cola knows what “unacceptable” means. Second, their response sluffs the problem back onto consumers. The problem isn’t that “packaging ends up in our oceans,” the problem is that there no suitable end life for single-use plastics; yet Coke is pumping them out anyway. Notice how they said “turn off the tap in terms of plastic waste entering our oceans” instead of “turn off the tap of single-use plastics?”

For perspective on how bad the plastic crisis is, read this Rolling Stone article. Warning: Sen. Tom Udall reveals that we are unknowingly consuming a credit card’s worth of plastic each week. The odds say a good portion of that came from Coca-Cola.

Related: 6 Things More Efficient Than Getting Protein From Cows

2) There’s no nutritional benefits to Coke products

In the spirit of fairness, I’ll reiterate that Coca-Cola products taste good. But so do bananas, pickles, iced tea, mint leaves and, according to some kids, Elmer’s glue. But beyond taste, what do coke products offer?

Let’s check the nutrition facts of a 20 oz bottle of classic Coke. Any vitamins? Nope. Calcium? Nope. Iron? Nope. Potassium? Nope. The only ingredients that actually register on the label are sodium, carbohydrates, caffeine and sugar (130% of the daily value!).

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3) In fact, it actually strips the body of nutrients and water

The story of how that happens should be cause for vomiting.

Coca-cola graphic
Image source.

4) The health effects are staggering

The graphic above shows the effects of one can of Coke. Now imagine the effects of consistent consumption. I’m not a doctor, so I’ll refer to an article reviewed by Licensed Dietician/Nutritionist Katherine Marengo. Coca-Cola products have been linked to:

  • Increased risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, tooth decay and ADHD.
  • Decreased kidney and liver function.
  • Impacts on the brain, including increased risks of stroke and dementia.

5) Coca-Cola products are way overpriced

According to Business Insider, it costs around 16 cents to make a can of soda which sells for between 50 cents and $1.50. Let’s split the difference and say a 12 oz can costs $1. That’s an 525% markup – and what are we actually getting?

In the same article, Business Insider estimates it costs Coca-Cola $1.50 to “make” 1,000 gallons of purified water, and then charges between $1 and $3 dollars for a 16.9 ounces of it. In a single-use plastic bottle.

I refuse to crunch those numbers.

Related: Quick and Easy Water Filters to Replace Bottled Water

6) The hidden costs of Coca-Cola

To recap, Coca-Cola is the the biggest contributor to plastic pollution, but they are trying to pass responsibility onto consumers and the recycling system. Its products provide no health benefits. In fact, they’re actually linked to several health risks. And they are charging us up the wazoo for what? A 20 minute sugar rush?

The scary part, to me, is the unmeasurable environmental harm of such a widespread, valueless product.

  • How many refrigerators, vending machines, and open-face displays are sucking energy to keep Coke products cold right now?
  • How many acres of farmland are growing corn to make corn syrup for Coca-Cola? What else could that corn be used for? What else could those acres be used for?
  • How many trucks are out there delivering Coca-Cola products right now?
  • What’s the bill for time, energy, and talent used to treat health conditions linked to Coca-Cola products? How many people are paying exorbitant prices for insulin to treat diabetes that Coca-Cola products contributed to?
  • Coca-Cola is not only the biggest contributor to the plastic crisis, it worked to keep it a secret for decades. What’s the cost of opportunity lost in those decades?
  • To what extent is Coca-Cola encouraging the use of fossil fuels for plastic packaging?
  • Coca-Cola — through industry groups — has been lobbying against legislation like the bottle bill for decades. What’s the cumulative effect of their efforts? How far have they kicked the can down the road?

Now imagine if Coca-Cola didn’t exist at all. After the sugar-hangover wears off, would we miss it?

The environment surely wouldn’t.

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Feature photo by maria mendiola on Unsplash.