Beer Bottles With a Bounce

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Miller Brewing Company, Millwaukee, and Anheuser-Busch, St. Louis, have joined forces with three plastics companies to create plastic bottles for beer in addition to glass bottles.

Working with the Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers (APR) and the American Plastics Council (APC), both in Washington, D.C., and the National Association for PET Container Resources (NAPCOR), Charlotte, N.C., the beer giants hope to create a plastic bottle that can be recycled easily and appeals to consumers, says Luke Schmidt, NAPCOR president. He says consumers desire a resealable, lightweight, transparent, shatter-resistant and temperature-retaining container.

Currently, plastic bottles are being test marketed in Los Angeles; Phoenix; Norfolk, Va.; Miami; San Antonio, Texas, and Dallas.

However, the beer bottles do present recycling challenges, says APR director Robin Cotchan. The amber color can contaminate the polyethylene terephthalate (PET) stream, causing discoloration to other recyclable materials used. Another concern is the "mixing bowl" effect, where differently constructed plastic bottles mingle in the waste stream.

Consequently, APR and NAPCOR hope to identify challenges to marketing, distributing and recycling the PET bottles before they are widely distributed, says NAPCOR's Schmidt.

"Introduction of the new PET beer bottles represents a growth potential for our members," he says. "We are combining efforts to do everything possible to ensure the recyclability of the bottles."

To encourage plastic beer bottle production, APR has initiated "Champions For Change," a partnership of consumer products companies, packaging suppliers and APR members, which will analyze how compatible packages are with recycling processes. The program also will inform suppliers of the results. Continental PET Technologies, Florence, Ky., is the only "champion" so far.