Tuesday, April 17

Whatever Happened to Returnable Bottles?

Last week I tried a Boylan ginger ale. The vintage-style bottle with all the intricate name detailing on the outside did a good job of reminding me of the returnable bottles of my early youth when Colorado had a returnable bottle deposit. I don't remember the news of the time, so I don't know why the deposit and the bottles went away.

The bottles are still available. Coca-cola insists they're just following customer preference in supplying non-returnable bottles to most of the U.S. That may be true as the returnable bottles are far more common in the three countries I've been in in Latin America. (In fact the bottles are so valuable that the sellers often keep them, providing your ice cold 6 oz Coke to go in a cup or a bag with a straw.)

I wonder if soda companies determine customer preference by putting out both kinds of bottles and seeing what people actually purchase, or if they go by bottle bills (and here).

I also ran across this document by the Agriculture Department on shipping milk in re-usable containers. They estimate that with good crating, a bottle can be re-filled 20 times.

I am also haunted by the image of Michelle's -- No Impact Man's wife -- lunch container in the New York Times article on them (photo by Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times). This seems to me to exemplify re-using. True, you can't microwave it, but it's a beautiful reminder that glass bottles were pretty much invented to store food and beverages over and over again. And given the very real risk that comes from microwaving plastic, it seems to me that taking lunch in a glass container makes a lot of sense.

I notice that Ball is now making plastic lids for sealing their bottles for the fridge. I think I may need to get some of these and try out taking my food to work in a jar. I'm sure it'll attract some attention, but that's not unusual. My lunches already look like this when I'm ready to eat:

That's lemon zinger tea in a 20 oz. beer mug adopted from a yard sale, Indian food leftovers in a Target ceramic bowl, miscellaneous silverware, and a napkin-sized dish towel from Crate and Barrel.

1 comment:

Brent said...

There are about a dozen bottlers in the US that still refill bottles (including one Coke plant!). They are listed at http://www.glassbottlesoda.org/

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NotSoBigLiving is the story of a woman inspired by Sarah Susanka, Bill McKibben, Airstreams, Tumbleweed houses, Mennonites, Jimmy Carter, hippies, survivalists, Anasazi, Pema Chodron and Joko Beck, Scott Peck, Buckminster Fuller, and Al Gore to see what she can do to reduce her carbon footprint in her mid-80's suburban townhome. Strategies include roommates, alternative travel, organic eating, planting a victory garden, mindfulness, and a belly full of laughter.