If you were told a retailer hadn't changed its packaging policies since 1927, you might be wary of its enviro impact. But the Beer Store's bottle cycle still puts most other retailers to shame.
"What's unusual about us is that people forget they're being environmentally friendly, because it's just something we've always done," says Sara J. Taylor, manager of communications at the Beer Store.
The Store boasts a system-wide recovery rate of 98 per cent, based on an industry-standard bottle (ISB). "It's used by the majority of brewers," says Taylor of the brown long-necked bottle typical of beers like Labatt Blue or Coors Light. In fact, there's a good chance the same glass bottle will find itself containing both beer brands at some point.
"[Brewers] get back any brand of bottle. They fill it, label it and cap it," says Taylor, noting that a long-neck can get 12 to 15 lives before being retired to standard recycling. That amounts to 1.47 billion reuses a year.
When it comes to green and clear bottles, some retailers pay special fees to have their unique refillable bottles separated and sorted, while others consign them to the worst-case one-use realm. Still, this roughly 10 per cent proportion of the Beer Store's sales enjoys a better fate than blue-binned glass bottles.
"One of the advantages of having a collection system like ours is the way we're able to collect bottles and ensure the glass remains intact until it's separated," says Taylor. Seventy per cent of the non-refillable glass goes to Owens Illinois to be remade into new glass bottles, and 30 per cent becomes fiberglass.
But the bad news is, starting in 2007 the Beer Store took on recycling glass bottles from the LCBO. Unfortunately, they're not reused the way beer bottles are - and worse, the Store accepts those awful aseptic wine boxes (Tetra Paks) promoted by the LCBO as "eco-friendly."
These Trojan gift boxes drag the otherwise admirable closed-cycle system down. They're hard to recycle because of their fusion of aluminum and plastic, and have an abysmal recovery rate, below 30 per cent. "There are various purchasers - we wouldn't be able to speak for them as to where the waste goes," says Taylor. It's rumoured Korea is one destination.