Last weekend I drove my friend to the liquor store to pick up some beer. As he was removing the case from the cooler, an all too familiar situation occured: the bottom of the case broke apart and beer went cascading everywhere, an unpleasant situation, and an easily avoidable one.
In Europe, beer is sold almost exclusively in plastic crates. Crates usually contain 16 x 500mL bottles for a perfect 8L, but there are other sizes too. They’re stackable, re-usable, very difficult to break, and all around better for the end user. The only two downsides are that they are slightly heavier than cardboard and breweries can’t brand them differently for each promotion they put on. There are, however, some dead simple ways to solve the latter, such as using a plastic wrapped seal during promotions.
According to Wikipedia, Canadians drink 2,183,000,000 litres of beer every year. Assuming 70% of that is in bottles, that works out to nearly 180 million cases. I couldn’t find stats on the inputs required to produce one case, but overall we’re probably looking at a significant energy saving.
For each case of beer purchased a deposit is paid on the case as well as on the bottles. In Germany it is around €3 ($4.20). I couldn’t find any life-cycle data on cases, but from personal experience I know that many cases from long ago are still in circulation in Germany.
While doing some research for this, I found a neat building made from beer cases. Try doing that with cardboard.
I think that this idea is past-due in North America. Beer spillage, ripped cardboard cases, and the general wastefulness of single-use containers should be things of the past. How do we convince beer companies that this is the right way to do things?