caramelisation of sugar?

Driving along I-94 through Montana recently…

Middle of summer heat, 90 degrees…
numerous plastic soda and juice bottles discarded along the road were observed to have liquid the color of iced tea or or “diluted” Coke or Pepsi, even if they weren’t bottles from same.
Our theory is that the sugar is carmelising in the constant heat. Can this be the case, and can it be done in a sealed bottle?

FWIW, once we crossed the state line into North Dakota, the bottles all but disappeared. Maybe they had cleaned the road recently?

My guess is that they were full of urine.

were the beverages were all sugar containing?

could be microbial growth also.

Could have been spit cups from tobacco users.

In my experience, coke and pepsi tend to bleach out in the sun to the colour of tea - the caramel breaks up due to heat and the UV.

But the other answers are probably right - urine.


Maybe they have a deposit on bottles so people find them worthwhile to collect and turn in for the few coins apiece?

Seeing that sugar needs temperatures of at least 230°F (fructose, 320°F for glucose and sucrose) to caramelize, it is unlikely that what you are seeing is due to that; it wouldn’t work even in Death Valley, and accounting for the ground getting hotter in direct sun (which can reach 200°F).

Interesting theory on what we saw being piss jugs. Definitely saw some of those gallon jugs.
The bottles in question were 10 or 12 oz bottles, not really practical for that purpose. Ironically, the greatest concentration of these was in the first half hour after Billings, MT, a place that as more than enough opportunities to go for a wizz in a civilized manner.
Never having indulged in chewing, can’t say if this was the colour or not.

Negatory good buddy.

States and territories with Bottle Bills:

• California
• Connecticut
• Guam
• Hawaii
• Iowa <- state nearest to the great state of North Dakota
• Maine
• Massachusetts
• Michigan
• New York
• Oregon
• Vermont

Those bottles are Shake and Bake Meth.