This summer, a new bottle will hit the shelves in beer aisles across Oregon that promises to challenge the way you think about glass containers.
Most of the world uses refillable glass bottles for beer. For example, in Germany — a country synonymous with beer — refillables are not only the norm; they’ve become cost-effective for brewers and consumers alike. The bottles circulate up to 50 times before they’re retired from the system.
In the United States, the situation looks quite different. Of the 13.7 million tons of glass bottles sold each year, only 25 percent are recycled. Of that, a full third do not meet quality specifications for glass manufacturers and, therefore, end up in landfills. There are only a few breweries in the country brave enough to use refillable bottles in our throwaway culture. One of them, Double Mountain in Hood River, has been washing and reusing bottles in partnership with the Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative (OBRC)/BottleDrop since 2010.
OBRC will introduce its 500-milliliter and 12-ounce refillable bottles for the Oregon craft beer market starting in July. OBRC, a not-for-profit beverage industry cooperative, sees an opportunity to do the right thing here. Because OBRC manages the entire bottle collection infrastructure for the state of Oregon, it is uniquely poised to use that existing framework to collect the bottle when the consumer returns it. And it couldn’t be easier to take back. These refillable bottles can be returned at the same places regular bottles are returned: BottleDrop Centers, BottleDrop Express sites and at the retailer.
Once collected, OBRC will wash, sanitize and inspect every bottle before it is delivered back to breweries. The facility uses the same advanced equipment employed by German brewers who’ve been perfecting the system for decades to ensure that the washed glass is as clean as, or cleaner even, than new glass and meets brewers’ high standards for quality.
The environmental effect of washing bottles is staggering. With each go around, a refillable bottle will cut its carbon footprint in half. Given OBRC’s mission to turn the bottles upwards of 10 uses — a 90-percent recovery rate — the environmental impact of the refillable bottle is just 10 percent of a standard, single-use glass bottle. It is important to note that 39 percent of a bottled beer’s carbon footprint comes from the glass itself. That is more than twice the toll of any other component (barley accounts for 18 percent). In sum, the best way to reduce the environmental impact of your store-bought brew is by choosing the most sustainable package, and refillable bottles are the clear winner.
Seven Oregon breweries have committed to using BottleDrop refillable bottles: Buoy Beer Company, Double Mountain Brewery, Gigantic Brewing Company, GoodLife Brewing Company, Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery, Widmer Brothers Innovation Brewhouse and Wild Ride Brewing.
Look for the refillable bottles starting this summer. You’ll recognize its unique-shaped neck and see “BottleDrop” debossed into the glass just above the label. Choose taste. Choose sustainability. Choose beer in refillable bottles. •
OBRC is a member-owned, cooperative corporation that collects and processes nearly all containers sold and redeemed in Oregon. OBRC counts, sorts, crushes, bales and recycles 1.2 billion containers each year. The entire process is funded and managed by the beverage and grocery industries at no cost to taxpayers.
Prior to joining OBRC, Nick was a brewer at several of Oregon’s top breweries. He holds degrees from Siebel Institute and McGill University, and he is currently pursuing an MBA at Portland State University. Nick’s passion for beer and sustainability makes refillables a natural fit. Native to Chicago, Nick now calls Portland home, where he lives with his wife and two children.