Chemistry, Materials & Packaging
Beer Store Recycles More Packaging Than It Sells, Saves Ontarians $40M

The Beer Store, a privately owned chain of retail outlets selling beer and other malt beverages across Ontario, Canada has announced that it has saved the province $40 million in the last year, thanks to its bottle recycling system and the cooperation of many Ontarians.

The Beer Store has been collecting empty wine, beer and spirits containers since it opened in 1927, the same year Prohibition ended in Ontario. The retailer says its return program, currently in its ninth decade of operation, has collected more than 75 billion beer containers to date. Despite high consumer levels of awareness regarding the deposit refund system, the environmental benefits are often less celebrated. This year's stewardship report is full of information about the taxpayer and environmental benefits of the Beer Store's world-class system.

"Thanks to the involvement of Ontario consumers, the Beer Store and the brewers who use our system are able to reuse or recycle an average of 4,000 containers every minute of every day, every year," noted Beer Store president Ted Moroz. "It's a system that works to ensure our industry's packaging is diverted from landfills and from being a burden on the Ontario taxpayer. It's an environmental commitment unmatched by other retailers, in Ontario or elsewhere."

On Thursday, the Beer Store released Serving Ontarians and the Environment: Responsible Stewardship 2012-2013, its annual packaging stewardship report for primary and secondary alcohol packaging, which includes details on the retailer’s deposit return system for beer containers and the Ontario Deposit Return Program (ODRP) for wine, spirit and cooler containers.

For the 52-week period ending April 28, 2013, the following environmental landmarks were achieved:

  • 2.02 billion beverage alcohol containers collected — equivalent to over 90 percent of all beverage alcohol containers sold in Ontario;
  • 1.72 billion beer containers collected — representing a 92.3 percent overall return rate for all glass and PET bottles, metal cans and kegs sold in Ontario;
  • 98.2 percent of all refillable glass beer bottles were returned — these bottles are used an average of 15 times before being recycled into new glass bottles — enabling brewers to sell over 1.05 billion beer servings in Ontario in 2012-13 while only purchasing 96 million bottles;
  • 80 percent of wine, spirit and cooler containers (ODRP containers) were recovered - approximately 1.8 billion containers have been collected since the program began in 2007;
  • Recovery of more paper and plastic packaging than the industry generated — making the Beer Store's program net positive for the Blue Box and Ontario landfills
  • 835 locations where consumers can recycle their beer, wine and spirits containers for a refund (as of April 30, 2013).

Combined, the Beer Store's beer container recovery program and the ODRP successfully:

  • Diverted over 447,000 tons of beverage alcohol packaging from Ontario landfills — equivalent to almost 50 percent of all materials collected through the Blue Box program;
  • Saved 2.8 million gigajoules of energy — equivalent to over 460,000 barrels of oil worth $49 million; and
  • Avoided approximately 200,500 tons of GHG emissions — equivalent to taking about 41,700 cars off the road for a year.

"The Beer Store's recycling results are outstanding," said Ontario Environment Minister Jim Bradley. "Recycling used packaging is good for our environment and our economy. The Beer Store's efforts mean more glass is recycled into new products such as new bottles and fiberglass insulation, rather than being wasted in landfills," he said.

Adult beverage producers in the US would do well to emulate the Beer Store’s contribution efforts, as producers may reap sizable rewards for reclaiming their own packaging: Packaging comprises over 40 percent of our country’s solid waste stream, greater than any other category, with most materials being recyclable. A 2012 report by As You Sow on extended producer responsibility details how shifting financial responsibility from taxpayers to producers can lead to an estimated $11 billion in profits through the processing of used materials, reductions in carbon emissions and energy used to produce new packaging, and creation of thousands of new jobs in collection and processing.

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