Nanny State

Soda Buyback Program Offers Veggies for Cans of Coke, Opportunities for Arbitrage


In New York last week, anti-soda campaigning reached a new level of point-missing and farmer's market fetishism:

In a bid to fight obesity and sugar-related diseases, the Alliance of Healthier NY hosted a program to buy back soda and carbonated soft drinks in the afternoon on Wednesday at Brooklyn East NY, New Lots Family Centre. Families are able to exchange these drinks which are termed as unhealthy for food vouchers and gift certificates for fresh vegetables and fruits….They can use these vouchers at the city farmer's market.

I'm sure it was all in the service of "awareness raising." Which is fair enough. But the program doesn't make a ton of sense. It's modeled on firearms buyback programs periodically run by police departments to get guns off the street. But guns are durable goods; they are expensive and somewhat difficult to acquire. Removing one gun from circulation might theoretically have an impact over time. But sodas are everywhere, and they are cheap and easy to get. In fact, setup of the program suggests some serious opportunities for arbitrage.

The Associated Supermarkets a couple of blocks from the trade-in site has a sale going:

And here's the deal the soda buyback team is offering:

They will buy back 1 can of carbonated drink for $2 voucher, and a bottle of 2 litres for $6 voucher.

Looks like an opportunity to scam from serious free kale and Swiss chard!

Of course, my arbitrage suggestion comes too late—the soda buy-back program happened last week—and it's sort of ridiculous, but let's just call it awareness raising about basic economics.

For lots more on New York soda fights, go here and here.