Canadians love their beer. So much so that the brewing industry uses billions of beer containers each and every year.
Recovering all these containers is a massive challenge for brewers; using returnable containers is a smart way for brewers to ensure that these bottles and cans will eventually come back.
Most standard glass beer bottles are marked for refundable deposit, washed and reused by brewers. These multiple-use bottles will be recouped, sterilized and reused several times before finally being recycled.
The bottle washing cycle
Whenever a returnable glass bottle is returned, it needs to be cleaned for the obvious hygiene reasons but also to remove the label. Here’s what the cleaning process typically looks like:
TRIAGE: Any broken bottles are discarded and recycled.
PRE-SOAKING: Bottles are placed in a huge “washing machine” with a rotating drum and washed with hot water and detergent. Now clean and label-free, the bottles undergo a second wash with pressurized jets cleaning the insides to disinfect them and to remove any residue, dirt or foreign objects that may be trapped inside.
RINSING: Bottles undergo two clear water rinses and are drained.
VERIFICATION: A final visual transparency check is done.
Bottles are heated to approximately 60°C for about 12 minutes. This process kills any microbes and also extends the life of the bottles.
Even brand-new bottles straight from the glass factory have to be washed, although the cleaning cycle is much shorter than that of used bottles that have been returned.
When you analyze the life cycles of the various containers used by the beer industry, it’s clear that multiple-use containers have a smaller environmental footprint, since with each reuse they create less drain on raw materials and energy resources. In fact, this deposit/refund system appears on the list of measures to adopt to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Not only does this system reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfills, it also reduces recycling costs for municipalities. It’s a win-win for both sides.
Although the deposit system is not universally embraced (some argue that the process is long and arduous, as well as costly and even useless), it does offer a number of environmental benefits.
Using returnable bottles is the right choice!