Many cities across the U.S. are struggling to continue accepting glass bottles and jars for recycling. Some cities have stopped accepting glass completely due to disappearing markets, leaving residents with no choice but to throw glass into the garbage. Others may no longer accept glass through comingled curbside collection programs, requiring residents to haul glass bottles and jars to drop off sites in order to preserve the integrity of other materials that can be contaminated when glass breaks. For thoughtful recyclers, hearing that glass will no longer be recycled in their community can be pretty darn upsetting. And even in communities where only the convenience of recycling glass through curbside bins has been taken away, recycling rates slip when residents have to make special trips to drop off centers.
This situation poses problems for any consumable packaged in glass, but according to the Glass Packaging Institute, beer and wine account for more than 60% of all glass packaging. I don’t have to tell you that if you suddenly find yourself unable to recycle your beer and wine bottles, the preferred solution is to buy those beverages in alternative and readily recyclable packaging. I know what you’re thinking: “Will I be able to find good-tasting beer in a can?” And “Will I have to start drinking wine from a box?” The quick answers are yes…and no, respectively.
If you have a taste for craft brews, you may be surprised at just how many come in cans. Craft brewers that offer beer selections in cans include Caldera, SanTan Brewing Co., 21st Amendment Brewery, New Belgium, Sun King Brewing Co., Surly Brewing Co., Anderson Valley, Big Sky Brewing Co., Blue Mountain and Oskar Blues—and the list keeps growing. According to FastCompany.com,
about 40 craft beer makers are making the switch to aluminum—which has the highest recycling rate and highest recycled content of any beverage container. But sustainability isn’t the only benefit. Brewers reduce costs and consumers gain convenience when switching to the can. How’s the taste ? According to the brew masters who are embracing cans, the beer is more protected from light, so the intended flavors and characteristics of the beer or better preserved. Pop one open and give it a try!
For wine lovers, even wine now comes in cans; but canned wine is much harder to find than canned beer—and imported. So, are boxed wines the answer? No. Traditional boxes have a plastic bladder that holds the wine. The box is easy enough to recycle, but the plastic bladder is not. Newer generation wine boxes are basically redesigned juice boxes. They have fused components (paper, plastic and aluminum) that cannot be easily deconstructed for recycling. Besides, the wines that come in such containers aren’t the kinds the majority of the wine community wants to drink. So what choices are we wine snobs left with? You could make your own wine, but short of that, try to buy from wineries that use bottles made of recycled glass, have switched to lighter-weight bottles or reuse bottles. You can peruse your favorite vintners’ websites and read up on their bottling choices, but here are few that I can recommend:
If you’re going to continue to buy wine in glass bottles, check out ideas for reusing bottles creatively at DrinkNectar.com. And don’t forget to support recycled glass products. This will help markets for recycled glass grow, so in the future we can all once again—or perhaps for the first time—recycle glass easily.