The Return of the Refillable Beer Bottle
Oregon is launching the nation’s first statewide reusable beer bottle program.
Oregon has always been ahead of the craft beer curve. Portland was recognized as one of America’s first great beer cities, and to this day, the whole state ranks fourth in breweries per capita. Now, Oregon is looking to take the lead in another important facet of the beer world: reusable beer bottles—launching what is said to be the nation’s first statewide reusable beer bottle program.
Though novel by today’s standards, the reuse of glass bottles used to be commonplace. Brewers started making the switch to single-use packaging around the 1930s, but even as recently as 1982, 12 percent of all American beer was sold in returnable bottles. That figure is now pegged at “negligible.” But from growlers in the beer industry to reusable water bottles and coffee cups elsewhere, interest in the ecological benefits of reusable items has returned. The Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative—who are behind the new initiative—realized a concerted effort would likely be the best way to harness this trend and usher in the return of the reusable beer bottle, so they set up a diverse group of seven breweries to test out the new program.
So starting this July, Widmer Brothers (one of Oregon’s first and largest brewers), Buoy Beer, Double Mountain, Good Life, Gigantic, Wild Ride and Rock Bottom will be the first brands to start selling and reusing standardized 500-milliliter and 12-ounce glass bottles which are said to be heavier and more durable so they can be re-used as many as 40 to 50 times. They’re also embossed with the phrases “BottleDrop,” “Refillable” and “Please Return” to remind drinkers not to simply toss them in the trash.
But making reuse that much easier, beer lovers don’t even have to do anything different with these new reusable bottles to keep them in circulation: They can be returned at the same redemption centers as single-use bottles and don’t have to be separated out. “If you've been redeeming your bottles before using the green bag account program or returning them to the bottle drop at the grocery store, you can still do that exact same thing, and we'll pick it out and we'll reuse it,” Jules Bailey, the co-op's chief stewardship officer and director of external relations, told the Portland Tribune.
The whole plan does have one hiccup. According to Oregon Public Broadcasting, the program is so fresh that the state doesn’t have its own washing facility yet. Instead, the bottles will be trucked to Montana for their high-powered cleaning (which even strips off the labels). But Joel Schoening, another co-op spokesperson, told OPB that even with this additional travel time, the reuse program should still save money and be better for the environment than recycling single-use glass bottles. “Each time the bottle gets reused it saves money,” he said. “And the more times we use that bottle, the lower the carbon footprint is