On October 9, an innovative refillable bottle being used by Oregon craft beverage makers took top honors in the sustainability category at the Glass Packaging Institute’s (GPI) annual Clear Choice Awards . The new BottleDrop Refill  bottle is by far the most environmentally sustainable option available for beverage packaging.
“Many consumers today are interested in environmentally sustainable products,” said Joel Schoening, a spokesperson for the Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative, which manages the refillable bottle program.
“As consumers, it’s important we think about the packaging. For beer, the bottle or can typically accounts for about 40 percent of the carbon footprint of the complete product. When you choose a beverage in a refillable bottle, you cut the total carbon impact of your purchase by nearly half.”
The BottleDrop Refill bottle reduces emissions by eliminating the energy intensive steps associated with recycling bottles or cans. While recycling is generally a good environmental choice, it still requires that the glass, plastic, or aluminum be sorted, transported, and manufactured into a new container. The BottleDrop Refill bottle, in comparison, will simply be cleaned and distributed back to beverage makers for reuse. In this way, using refillable containers eliminates most of the carbon emissions when compared with new or even recycled containers.
The bottle is recognizable to consumers by its unique neck shape. It is embossed with the BottleDrop logo on the shoulder and debossed with “Refillable” and “Please Return” on the heel. Designed with thicker glass, this bottle can be reused up to 25 times. With each use, its carbon footprint is reduced relative to other container types. Additionally, the bottle is made in Portland, by Owens-Illinois (O-I), and up to 70 percent of the glass used to manufacture the refillable bottle is recycled from glass collected in the region.
The BottleDrop Refill bottle represents the first statewide initiative to promote the use of sustainable, refillable bottles. BottleDrop Refill connected with O-I, the largest glass container manufacturer in the world, and fellow industry experts to design and produce this bottle at the local O-I Portland facility. The ability to design a custom bottle tailored to the input of some of the initial breweries was key, and O-I provided that solution while still allowing each brewer to further customize the bottle with label and closure.
“The United States lags far behind the rest of the world when it comes to using refillables. We aim to change that,” said Nick Munson-Phelps, the program coordinator. Currently, less than 0.1 percent of all beverage containers are refillable in the US compared with 45% refillable bottle participation rate in Canada. The challenge of going back to refillables is complex, but OBRC can leverage its existing collection infrastructure and offer brewers a way to commit to sustainable packaging without the large investment typically required. BottleDrop Refill will operate a central wash facility to wash and distribute the bottles back to the breweries.
“The 2018 Clear Choice Awards bring into focus the connection brands can make with consumers through eye-catching, sustainable and innovative glass packaging,” said Joe Cattaneo, Acting Executive Director, GPI.
“Every year, the vast majority of new products launched in beer, wine and spirits are packaged in glass containers, and these Awards celebrate the design leader.”