Vending machine purchases often elicit feelings of guilt about the sugar and fat contents of soda and candy, but rarely about the greenhouse gas emissions of the machine itself. Soda vendors know, though, that their machines use hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)—potent greenhouse gases with atmospheric lifetimes as long as 260 years—to keep drinks cool.
PepsiCo has finally caved into pressure to stop using the toxic gases, and is spearheading an effort to replace HFCs in vending machines with compressed carbon dioxide. According to Robert Lewis, Pepsi's Vice President of Packaging and Equipment Development, the CO2-cooled machines use 5.09 kilowatt-hours of energy per day, or 15% less than current vending machines. Pepsi's new machines also emit 12% less greenhouse gas.
The company is rolling out 30 of the machines in the Washington, D.C. area, with a worldwide rollout expected over the next several years. If the rollout goes as planned, Pepsi will succeed in preventing 4 to 5 million vending machines-worth of HFCs from hitting the atmosphere. Pepsi is also testing other green HFC alternatives like isobutane and propane.
PepsiCo isn't the first beverage company to experiment with environmentally-friendly refrigerants. Coca-Cola used HFC-free refrigerants in all of its vending machines at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, and plans to convert its vending machines in Japan to HFC-free models by 2020.
And so the Coke/Pepsi war continues, but this time with greenhouse gas emissions as the centerpiece instead of taste.