Most of us put the glass bottles, along with the cans, in a recycling bin and feel a little better about our green cred. The brown glass beer bottles almost always end up crushed into cullet, melted down and cast into new bottles. A very few more stoutly made bottles get washed, sterilized, and refilled. One brewery doing this is Bayern Brewing in Missoula, Montana. Bayern has been around since 1987 and recently spent over $250,000 on a bottle washing machine. Ryan Newhouse, in his new book Montana Beer, reports that this apparatus can wash and sterilize up to 8,000 bottles an hour.
those bottles would end up in the same cullet plants, melted down and recast. That's because the typical brown bottle, known as one-way glass, is not sturdy enough for multiple refillings. A true re-usable bottle is thicker and stronger than the one-way version, and of course more costly. Like 47 cents a bottle compared to eleven cents.
Those numbers were given to me by Matt Coughlin, the main brewer at Double Mountain Brewery in Hood River, Oregon. Matt came up to Bellingham to host a brewer's night at The Green Frog and then to play his guitar and sing as part of a nice-sounding duo at the Frog that same night. Double Mountain beers come in half-liter bottles, subject in Oregon to the five-cent deposit law. The brewery pays double that, ten cents, to get its bottles back from consumers, and also pays several cents to retailers, groceries and bars, that pay out the nickel to redeem these empties. Once the brewery collects a worthwhile load of Double Mountain empties, they are trucked over to Missoula.
The environmental cred is substantial. Double Mountain quotes a study that figures the carbon footprint of multiple use refillable bottles is about one-forth that of one-way glass bottles and one-seventh that of aluminum cans. Bayern needs to get more craft brewers on the refillable bottle bandwagon like Double Mountain to get full use of its bottle washer.
(Visited Bayern 01-17-14)