Oregon Expands Program for Refillable Glass Bottles

Connector Spring 2018

A glass bottle reuse program in Oregon has taken major steps forward, with glass giant Owens-Illinois creating a standardized refillable bottle for breweries and long-term plans for a wash facility moving forward.

Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative (OBRC), the industry-managed stewardship group that runs the Beaver State’s container deposit program, is working with a number of stakeholders to expand what has until now been a fairly limited refillables sector.

Hood River, Ore.-based Double Mountain Brewery currently uses a refillable bottle, which is returnable at the brewery or at OBRC drop-off sites. OBRC began redeeming the refillable bottles last year, and according to its quarterly reports, the group redeemed 5,800 Double Mountain refillable bottles throughout 2017. The brewery currently ships returned bottles to be washed in Canada. Afterwards, they’re sent back to Double Mountain to be refilled.

Now, the same concept in use by Double Mountain is being offered to other craft brewers.

OBRC collaborated with Owens-Illinois (O-I), a major glass bottle manufacturer with a Portland production facility, to develop a unique container for the expanded reuse program. O-I receives major tonnages of recycled glass through OBRC for container manufacturing, and a high percentage of feedstock for the refillable bottles will come from this recycled glass stream.

OBRC says it hopes that by the end of June, offerings from a handful of breweries will be on store shelves in the new refillable bottles. Those containers will be different in both appearance and construction from traditional glass beer bottles. Double Mountain currently uses its own refillable glass bottle design. Moving forward, under the expanded OBRC program all brewers participating in the refillable initiative will be using a single industry-standard design.

The bottle, which O-I began producing in February, comes in two sizes, one holding 12 fluid ounces (355 ml) and the other holding 16.9 fluid ounces (500 ml). The bottles will not cost more for breweries than single-use glass products, and could actually be cheaper.

The bottles will also be visually identifiable as refillable containers. For the program to be successful, it has to recoup as many of the bottles as possible for refilling, rather than having them channeled into traditional glass recycling programs.

Once collected by OBRC, bottles move into a washing phase. In the short term, they’ll be shipped to Bayern Brewing, a Missoula, Mont.-based brewery with an established bottle wash operation. OBRC has longer-term local plans to create a more efficient, localized structure.

OBRC has not yet signed contracts with breweries to use the new O-I bottle, but it has had conversations with a number of breweries including smaller local and regional breweries as well as larger craft brewers.

The ability to launch a statewide refillable program is tied to the fact that Oregon has a bottle deposit system in place in which the stewardship group handles all stages of the recycling process, from collection to sale of recycled product to an end user.

Source: Resource Recycling