Bring back the Glass Bottle!

Forget the plastic bottle and let's hear it for again glass bottles and jars!

By Michael Smith (Veshengro)

I know I have visited this subject more than once already in various of my articles on this journal but, even though I may bore some readers to tears with it by now, I will make the point again.

Maybe we should start a “Return to the Refund Bottle” movement, or such? I am open to suggestions on this.

Water, lemonade, Coca Cola, Pepsi, juice, milk - they all come nowadays, with few exceptions, in plastic single-use-only throw-away bottles, with the majority of them ending up in a landfill rather than a recycling bin. Apparently we are told that you cannot even safely reuse those bottles with water, for instance, as there are chemicals in the plastic that will leach into the water if the bottles are reused. So we have not other option but to throw them away. Even cooking oils and vinegars, as well as table sauces, now come in plastic bottles. But there was a time, not so long ago, when all milk, Coke, fruit juices, water (oh, please do not get me started on bottled water), lemonade, and others came in glass bottles, the majority of which, including beer bottles (which still are glass, in the main) had a deposit on then and us kids used to make good pocket money every week from trundling about the countryside with our little handcarts picking up the bottles that people, despite the deposit charged on them, threw away and bringing them back to the stores and getting the refund money for us. Thanks muchly!

There was also a time, that I can well remember, in my childhood in the 1960's still, when milk was sold loose in the stores; you brought along a small milk churn thing, like a billy can, with a handle, made of metal mostly, and you got the amount of milk you wanted ladled into the billy can, you put the lid on and, after paying for it, took it home to Mum. She then would pasteurize it at home by bringing the milk to the boil. No one ever got sick from it.

When I was a kid everything like that came in reusable glass bottles that were returned to the manufacturer when you were done with the drink. R Whites Lemonade was one we all remember and many of them we collected as children for pocket money. The same held true for Coco Cola bottles and beer bottles. This was before the “ex & hop” era of 250ml and 330ml one-way bottles. The only reasons those were invented was because the breweries and other drinks manufacturers were too lazy to collect the bottles back in from the outlets. Even the Coca Cola (and other those of other Colas) became throw-away bottles, even though they were still glass, Many then, aside from the tin can, switched to the plastic bottles, and enter our current dilemma.

Wouldn’t it be lovey if we could go back to those days, to the days before the plastic and the glass throw-away bottles? The amount of trash that we could keep out of the ground would just be tremendous. But who says we cannot go forward to such a time and, short of reinventing the wheel, bring back the glass bottles and even glass jars, as far as I am concerned, with deposit on them. All that is needed is the will to do it.

Drinks manufacturers, breweries, dairies, etc. who are concerned about the future of this planet should and must take a leaf out of the book of the past and must bring back glass bottling facilities and infrastructure for the recovery of the empties. I think we could all bet that those who are environmentally concious would rather choose their products over others by manufacturers still using plastic bottles or even those who who use the non-returnable glass bottle.

Yes, it would require an initial investment in facilities and the glass bottles themselves, but this would soon be evened out and soon there would be a profit coming from this as glass can be reused again, and again, and again, ad infinitum. All it needs to be is sterilized before each refill.

While the shipping costs of this now, due to glass bottles, slightly heavier product, might be a little more and also the additional costs of recovering the empties from the stores. Then again, in the latter case, a truck delivering full cases of whatever to stores can easily, as it used to be done, pick up the crates of empties and take them back to the depot. The only downside could the the possibility of breakages. And it is not just a possibility; breakages will occur.

To my mind it would be absolutely brilliant to have, once again, all such goods in returnable glass bottles (and jars) that we know will be used again, and again, as long as we return them to the stores. However, should the adults be too lazy to do so I am sure that the kids will once again discover the delights that we had as children of ridding the countryside of such bottles (who also, if in the sunlight in the countryside in summer can become the cause of fires) and making nice money in return for little effort.

Ah, the good old days of childhood and bottle collecting for refund.

We still have beer in bottles but what happens to most of those bottles? They end up in the trash just like the plastic ones do and, in the main, are also not recovered and recycled. Let's get back to deposit on ALL glass bottles, for drinks of all sorts, including milk and beer. Yes, even on spirits bottles, whether whisky, vodka, rum, etc.

There is a German brewery, from the Black Forest, that also supplies the UK market with bottled beer who have empty bottles recovered from every place they supply and ship those bottles back to Germany. If they can do it why should it not be possible to do it locally?

We have been here before, it is not directly rocket science. All it needs, like with so many things, is the will, the political will especially, to do it. However, does it need to start with legislation and companies being “forced” to do the right thing. Could not breweries, dairies and soft drinks manufacturers and even the distilleries, start the schemes up themselves of having again glass bottles (where there is now plastic) and have all bottles return for reuse. Same also for wine. So much wine is being consumed now in the UK and all those bottles either end up in recycling where it needs energy to turn them back into new glass bottles or other glass items or, more often than not, they simply end up in the general trash and in the landfill sites.

Time for a serious think and serious change. Companies, if they'd get their calculators out, should, after the initial outlay of recovering and cleaning the bottles, make a healthy profit rather soon as no new bottles will be needed for a long time to come.

© M Smith (Veshengro), April 2008