According to Resource Recycling, 22% of all the beer consumed in the state of Oregon was brewed in Oregon by local craft brewers. There are more than 100 breweries in the metropolitan Portland area alone. Sales of craft beer in Oregon makes up a larger share of the beer market than in any other state. That means Oregon craft brewers go through a lot of beer bottles.
Enter the Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative (OBRC). The OBRC runs the state’s container deposit program. It has just announced efforts to create a refillable beer bottle program in partnership with Oregon breweries. There are not a lot of these kinds of refillable bottle programs in the country. That’s typically because there are no partner networks in place and there is no necessary infrastructure to have a program that’s bigger than a single brewery.
In contrast, the OBRC already has an existing network of BottleDrop redemption centers, a fleet of trucks operating statewide, brewer, distributor and retailer relationships, and plant facilities to house washing equipment.
John Anderson, president of OBRC, says, “A refillable bottle program is a progressive step in responsible materials management for Oregon’s craft brew industry. The beverage industry is committed to not only upholding the legacy of the Oregon Bottle Bill, but expanding stewardship efforts through new and innovative programs like this one.”
Matt Swilhart, founder of the Double Mountain Brewery refillable bottle program, says, “I’m excited to partner with OBRC on a larger refillable beer bottle initiative. Customers of our current system love the softer environmental footprint and know they are part of a solution to sustainability.”
According to the OBRC, refillable beer bottle programs—with their traditionally higher deposit values—lead to fewer bottles littered, and, if developed properly, can be more cost effective and a better use of resources. It anticipates starting refillable beer bottle operations within the next two years. A pilot phase will concentrate on larger bottles in partnership with local craft breweries. Existing single brewery programs will be expanded while new programs are developed. The initial estimates for the pilot phase calculate the number of bottles sold and refilled could exceed 2 million bottles per year.
A few fun facts about the Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative: It collects and processes nearly all containers that are sold and redeemed in Oregon. It sorts, crushes, bales, and recycles 1.2 billion containers each year. It operates BottleDrop Redemption Centers across the state. In Oregon, all bottle bill operations are funded and managed by the beverage and grocery industries at no cost to the taxpayers.
And now a little something for you craft beer lovers…