Re: Refillable Bottles

Pat Franklin (
Tue, 18 May 1999 07:27:49 -0700 (PDT)

Bill and anyone else interested in REFILLABLE BOTTLES,

This is one of many old emails that I just can't bring myself to erase.
Every so often I go back into my OLD ones and try to respond. CRI is very
interested in trying to promote refillable beverage bottles. There are
other ngo's that are also interested (Institute for Local Self Reliance to
name one).

The refillable Pet (REFPET) bottle you referred to is also used widely in
Europe. Regarding your question about market share of refillable bottles --
approximately 1% of soft drink containers were refillable bottles in 1997
(mainly small local bottlers who bottle their own brand and an infinitesimal
number of Coke/Pepsi bottlers who still bottle in refillables. And then
there are the old fashioned small 8 oz REFILLABLE COKE bottles that Coke
still makes and sells but does not REFILL.

As for beer, about 3% of beer containers are refillables. As Bill Carter
said, these are mostly in bottle bill states, particularly CT - 10%, MA -
16%, NY - 7%, VT - 8%, IA - 11%). A few non bottle bill states also have a
higher than average refillable market share --- IN - 8%, DE - 6%, MN - 7%,
and PA - 10%.

Anyone else out there interested in a BRING BACK REFILLABLES Campaign?

Hope to hear from you Bill.

Pat Franklin

At 02:30 PM 1/21/99 -0600, Bill Carter wrote:
>Just wanted to share my experience of a previous market "shift" in the
>bottling industry in case it helps enlighten the possible dimensions of the
>current plastic beer bottle debate.
>In 1986-7, the beer and grocery industries apparently decided they were
>ready to phase out the returnable beer bottle system, at least for retail
>sales. The first step was the introduction of a non-refillable longneck
>look-alike into test markets, including parts of Texas, starting with
>Budweiser and quickly followed by all major brands that had long-necks.
>Suddenly there was great consternation in the refilling system, as
>these look-alike longnecks increasingly sneaked into the system and
>caused massive breakage and spillage problems and losses. In a very
>short time, all local grocery outlets had stopped carrying beer in refillable
>bottles or paying for returned deposit bottles, so consumers suddenly
>had great difficulty finding beer in returnables or recovering deposits.
>A handful of independent brewers with refilling systems toughed it out
>for a while, but they were unwilling to openly go up against the major
>distributors in an almost certainly futile attempt to roll back these
>changes. Their returnable longnecks bled away into the recycling
>stream or the garbage.
>As director of Ecology Action in Austin, I could not find anyone interested
>in waging a campaign on the issue, including fellow board members of
>the National Recycling Coalition. There just wasn't a major constituency
>for returnables. We (Ecology Action) profited for a little while by
>hand-sorting the longnecks we received and providing one of the few
>reliable sources of refillable bottles to stock the "last gasp" of the
>operations in the area. I have recently learned that there is at least one
>regional refiller still operating, supplying beer of various makes in
>returnable longnecks strictly to the commercial establishment trade (bars
>& restaurants in San Antonio, possibly elsewhere) where bulk returns
>free of "fake longnecks" can be assured.
>It is my impression that the beer refilling system was decimated nationally
>within a short time in the late 80's, except in some container deposit
>states where the refilling system was well entrenched. I'd be curious to
>know where beer and/or soda refilling still has any significant market
>One more item of trivia -- there is a plastic soda bottle refilling system in
>Mexico, using very heavy-duty plastic bottles. And of course, glass soda
>and beer bottle refilling is still alive and well there, including clear Corona
>bottles among other brands that have never been refillable in the US.
>Bill Carter, Program Specialist
>Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission
>Office of Small Business and Environmental Assistance
>MC114 P.O. Box 13087, Austin, TX 78711-3087 USA
>(512) 239-6771
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Pat Franklin, Executive Director
Container Recycling Institute
1911 Ft. Myer Drive Suite 900
Arlington, VA 22209
703/276-9800 fax 276-9587