Re: Refillable Bottles

Bill Carter (
Wed, 19 May 1999 23:23:42 -0500

I wholeheartedly support the return of returnables. My job situation does
not allow me to take a leadership role at this time or to participate from
my workplace, but I'd do what I can from home in my "spare" time.

The key obstacles I see to refilling systems now is our consolidated
grocery retailing system that favors megamerchandisers which can contract
to supply regional and national grocery chains. Return of refillables over
the distances supplied by present-day major bottling plants would be
expensive in money and energy. Grocers also work harder to squeeze profit
from every square foot of floor space and every hour of staff time, and the
handling of refillables has a relatively low return on investment.

I agree with Martin that local brands produced in metro areas are the best
prospects for new refilling systems. The tough question is not who would
be interested in bottling their beverage in refillables, but who will be
willing to accept the empties back? Maybe the California redemption system
is a model to consider -- don't ask the supermarkets to redeem the bottles,
but get them to assure that there is a redemption center within a certain
distance that will do so. If they don't have to handle the bottles, maybe
they won't mind selling beverages in refillable bottles and collecting the
deposits (for a small handling fee), especially if consumers are demanding

On the manufacturing front: The glass bottle makers have been major
opponents of deposit systems but supporters of recycling, partly on the
logic that people buy more bottles if the bottles can't be refilled.
Perhaps the industry will soon be willing to rethink that logic as they
rapidly lose market share to plastic and metal.