Returning glass bottles for free

Back in March of 2018, we wrote about the Government’s announcement that it intended to introduce a Deposit Return Scheme for glass bottles, plastic bottles and tin cans. We’re now nearly a year down the road and there’s still precious little information available concerning any updates on this promising idea.

What is a Deposit Return Scheme?

In a nutshell, the idea is that you pay a little extra for the product (e.g. a bottle of mineral water) at the till, but you get some cash back when you return the empty container to the shop. This cash incentive for the return is supposed to encourage consumers to stop throwing things into bins when they could instead be rewarded financially for taking them back to the retailer.

Return or recycle?

Whilst this sounds like a great idea, it got me wondering (after having a beer from a bottle at the weekend) if people would still return their empties even if they didn’t get paid for doing so. For me, there’s always this niggly prick to my conscience when sipping a drink from a glass or plastic bottle even when I know that I’m going to put it in the recycling trash afterwards. Why? Well, the process of producing plastic and glass containers in the first place burns a lot of fossil fuel, and it’s the same when they’re being recycled. Worse still, a sizeable percentage of glass and plastic still goes to landfill, thus compounding the problem even further.

Don’t get me wrong, the notion of recycling is fabulous, but there’s probably still much more we could do if we really put our minds to it. Bearing in mind that only a few decades ago the concept of recycling was an alien one; pretty much everything went to landfill back then.

Branded bottles

Take my beer bottle as an example (the main picture above); it’s a bottle of Sol and, as you can see, it’s been produced specifically for the manufacturer. We know this because it has embossed writing on it that is unique to the company. Similarly, if you pick up a bottle of Budweiser, you’ll see their own unique branding on their bottles too. Of course, many other drinks manufacturers do exactly the same thing as well.

This obviously means that even if it was washed for reuse, it wouldn’t be any good to anyone else except the particular brewing company that produced it. I don’t know about you, but I find it such a shame that all the fuel energy that has gone into making this attractive bottle will be wasted if it’s not reused. As it’s glass, you’d imagine that it could be cleaned and reused without any health risks to the consumer. Surely this would be much cheaper than melting it down and remoulding it in its original image?

It goes without saying that this also applies to plenty of other consumables apart from drinks that come in glass bottles – Think olive oil, cooking sauces, vinegar, mustard, honey etc. I could go on… but you get the point.

Would you, and if so, why?

This brings me neatly back to the question at the top of this post – Would you return your used glass bottles for free? Perhaps if the manufacturers had an appetite for ‘wash and reuse’ instead of either using newly manufactured or recycled glass, there may be some mileage in the idea, although this would of course also require the cooperation of the stores that sell their products.

If you’re one of those people that are concerned about leaving the world in a better state for future generations ( because let’s face it, we’re doing a pretty good job of wrecking it at the moment), then perhaps you’d consider returning your empties even if you don’t get paid for it – I know I would!

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