Re: Beer in Plastic Bottles

tomd (
Sat, 06 Feb 1999 12:02:03 -0400

Helen Spiegelman wrote:

> Ummm, exactly why is it we should be jumping on a band wagon to oppose
> plastic bottles?
> I think we're missing the point here.
> I think we need to remember that single-use glass bottles are not a green
> alternative. Glass recycling is a sham.

I must disagree. Glass recycling is very viable. In fact, folks who make glass
containers tell me that glass to be recycled -- called "cullet" -- is required to get a
"good mix" of raw materials in a glass melt. They like about 30 percent cullet in a melt,
if I recall.

This is why glass recycling has been around a long time. When I was a kid, (long, long
before earth day!), the local glass plant was paying $15-20 a ton for container glass.
Collecting the stuff, along with deposit bottles, was a favorite enterprise of scout
troops and kid capitalists.

Biggest drawback to glass recycling is contamination of cullet with ceramics and glass
with different melting points -- cookware, window glass, lightbulbs, etc. It causes
defects in the finished product, and requires careful inspection during collection and

> Even when glass is recycled into
> new glass, it is at very minimal energy savings (perhaps none, after
> transport). The glass being collected in our deposit/return program is
> being crushed, commingled, and shipped over the rocky mountains to be
> turned into fibreglass (there's plenty of silica sand in Alberta for
> fibreglass).

Remember to consider ALL the energy savings and environmental impacts. Would you support
more silica mines in Alberta?

> The glass from our curbside programs is being crushed
> commingled and dumped in construction sites.

By dumped, do you mean used as construction material? It's a good substitute for sand in
cements, grouts, concretes, etc., and even dumped as fill it's at least relatively
innocuous. I'd rather they used that than the latest "enviro-sham" being perpetrated on
my neck of the woods: using incinerator fly ash and other hazardous wastes in construction

> I personally *never* put glassin my curbside collection container,
> and counsel all my friends to do the
> same. What little single-use glass comes into my life goes out in the garbage.

What a waste.

> Even though Bill Sh. exaggerates the prevalence of refilled beer glass in
> Canada (in BC it's well under 25%), one can still avoid single-use glass
> beer bottles here in Canada, thank God, -- and it is a real pain in the
> neck to visit relatives in the USA and have to choose between aluminum and
> single-use glass.
> I spent more time than I wanted to just this morning, picking up shards of
> a glass beverage container from a roadside, where I would shortly be riding
> my bicycle. Even bottle bills don't collect 100% of the containers, and I
> would rather have people who insist on choosing single-use containers drink
> beer from a single-use plastic bottle than from a single-use glass bottle.

Here I agree that glass is a serious problem as litter. This is the biggest drawback to
glass containers. Farmers in my area, who suffer equipment damage and livestock injury,
often do battle with the glass makers in our area over the bottle bill.

Best solution is really the old reusable glass beverage containers. Maximum resource and
energy savings, high deposit fees providing collection incentive, and the heavy reusable
containers were less likely to break along the roadside.

Glass, even single-use, has its advantages as a container. I would rather drink from
glass than from any other container material. Glass is virtually inert. You never taste
the can or the plastic. I don't believe alumimum containers (or cooking utensils) are a
significant toxic threat, but I'm not so sure about plastics or steel. Glass is always
the best choice for some acidic foods. And unlike many plastics, glass is non-porous and
easily cleaned, making it an excellent candidate for immediate re-use.

Irony # 247: The glass container plants in my region are owned by companies that also own
plastic container plants. These companies apparently made a decision that "plastics are
the future" and are not really promoting their glass container products. The local glass
plant has been slowly shrinking in production and workforce for a long time, and everyone
is just waiting for the final ax to fall (predictions range from 1 to 20 years).

> Helen Spiegelman
> 3570 West 22nd Avenue
> Vancouver, British Columbia

thanks for your thoughts, Helen.

i make no claims or guarantees
that I know what i'm talking about