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Blitz-Weinhard begins refilling in the Pacific Northwest.

Blitz-Weinhard begins refilling in the Pacific Northwest

Some might say 110 million bottles can't be wrong.

In the past four years alone, that's how many empty bottles have been returned to the Blitz-Weinhard brewery in Portland, OR, to be refilled. Not recycled, the brewery points out, refilled.

According to Blitz-Weinhard, it is the only brewer that has refilled its bottles continuously since the Oregon bottle bill passed in 1971 -- even though that law only requires bottles to be redeemed. Blitz-Weinhard refills approxi78 percent of all bottles of Henry Weinhard's Private Reserve brand.

The brewery's success in bucking a national trend away from refillables has led it to take its bottle refilling campaign to other Pacific Northwest states, including Washington, Montana, and now Idaho, where distributors have been asking for refillables, a brewery spokesperson said.

The decision to extend refilling into other states follows a promising start with refilling in Washington by both Blitz-Weinhard and Seattle-based Rainier Brewing Co.

At this point, returns in Washington are averaging 20.4 percent, and continues to look encouraging, according to Bruce Vaughan, president, G. Heileman Brewing Co. -- west division.

To further stimulate the return of bottles, the breweries announced plans to begin paying consumers in Washington, Montana, and Idaho a minimum of 50 cents per case of Private Reserve and Rainier-brand bottles returned to recyclers, distributors and a new redemption center which was recently opened.

"Refilling is better than recycling," Vaughan said. "Not only does it reflect Pacific Northwest values; it's also more economical for us to wash, sterilize and refill bottles than to use new disposable bottles. And that translates directly into cost benefits for the consumers."

To further promote the refilling process, Blitz-Weinhard has continued using sturdy, traditional corrugated boxes to ease returns rather than switch to fancy but flimsy packaging. By recycling those boxes, Blitz-Weinhard reports saving 3,000 tons of paper from the waste stream since 1987.

"Those boxes may not be as flashy as some, but they certainly are a lot more environmentally responsible," Vaughan noted. "They're made out of recycled fiber and we'll recycle them again after they're returned. Our goal is to minimize packaging waste"

While Oregon's mandatory bottle deposit program undoubtedly has helped make the refilling process easier, Vaughan explained it doesn't take a bottle bill to make refilling work. It just takes consumer education and cooperation.

To encourage that cooperation in other states, the brewery has authorized recyclers and distributors to pay a minimum of 50 cents a case for empties, substantially more than most were paying.
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Publication:Modern Brewery Age
Date:Nov 26, 1990
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