Why don’t we reuse glass bottles anymore? Think about it; have you seen Coke come in a glass bottle lately?
Let’s look at some glass bottle packaging economics for starters:
Compared to using raw ingredients to make new glass, recycling glass does indeed save energy. For every 10% of recycled glass used in the manufacturing process, the Glass Packaging Institute notes that energy costs drop about 2-3%. A reduction in resource use and pollution is also accomplished by glass bottle recycling.
That’s recycling but what about reusing glass bottles? The fact is that when glass packages are sterilized and reused without being reformed, crushed or melted down costs drop even more. As compared to recycling non-refillables there are many factors that affect the costs and efficiencies associated with a bottle reuse program including:
- Deposits on refillable bottles (or taxes on non-refillable bottles) are required or not, to increase recovery rates of refillables.
- Local recycling programs ability to be successful at collecting non-refillable bottles.
- Willingness of retailers to accommodate collection programs for refillables.
- To reduce the distance traveled by refillables, the beverage industry will have to geographically restructure its bottling operations.
- To use industry-standard bottles (or whether governments are willing to force them to do so), beverage companies would have to collaborate.
Studies have been performed and the message is pretty clear; using refillable glass bottles is one of the least expensive packaging methods available from an efficiency standpoint. It beats out the wax-covered carton which has always been one of the least expensive one-way packaging options out there. Usually, non-returnable glass bottles have been the most expensive packaging option of any kind.
Now comes the trickiest question: why don’t we do it if it’s so economically advantageous?
There are 3 main points to make when it comes to switching over to refillable glass bottles from disposable glass bottles:
- The beverage industry – Packaging is part of their marketing strategy. Companies like having absolute control over bottle characteristics like surface roughness, shape, opacity, and color. It all plays a significant part in selling what the fickle consumer wants. At least that’s what they think.
- Food store chains – They are definitely less than enthusiastic about collecting bottles due to the fact that it will increase usage of space and they will have to hire extra people to manage collection and refund deposits.
- The American public – Sad to say but we as consumers have become a throw-away society. We’re more than willing to put our glass bottles into the recycling bin but in reality only about 25% of glass packaging gets recycled in the United States.
Replacing our approach of recycling glass bottles with a new program of reusing them comes with many hurdles and requires a major change in the mindset of the consumer. It has an even tougher mountain to climb when it comes to the beverage industry and its control over government lawmakers.
Bottom line – it can be done. After all, that’s the way recycling came into being – one bottle at a time.