Percent of Packaged Beer Sold in Refillable Bottles in 1998

According to data from the Beer Institute, an estimated 3 percent of packaged beer was sold in refillable bottles in the U.S. in 1998. Fifteen states reported a rate of 4 percent or higher. Of those states, 7 were bottle bill states. Nine states reported a rate of 7 percent or higher. Of those, 5 were bottle bill states.

There are 10 bottle bill states and 40 non-bottle bill states. Seventy percent (70%) of the bottle bill states had 7% or more of their packaged beer in refillable bottles in 1998, but only ten percent (10%) of non-bottle bill states had 7% or more of their packaged beer in refillables



States with 7% or more of Packaged Beer in Refillable Bottles

Bottle Bill States Non-Bottle Bill States
Massachusetts 18% Pennsylvania 13%
Iowa 13% Minnesota  7%
Connecticut 11% New Jersey 7%
New York  8% Rhode Island 7%
Delaware  7%


States with 4 - 6% of Packaged Beer in Refillable Bottles

Bottle Bill States Non-Bottle Bill States
Maine 6% Wisconsin 6%
Oregon 4% Colorado  6%
Nebraska 5%
Indiana 4%

Source: Based on data from the Beer Institute.





Decline of Refillable Soft Drink Bottles

This graph shows a steady decline in refillable soft-drink bottles since the mid 1900's, according to CalPIRG and the NSDA.

Decline of Refillable Beer Bottles

This graph shows an almost exponential decline in refillable bottles since the mid 1900's, according to the Beer Institute.

The Decline of Refillable Beverage Bottles in the U.S.

Before the introduction of one-way, disposable containers all fountain soft drinks and draught beer were sold in refillable glass bottles. The disposable steel can made its debut in 1938 and in less than 10 years cans comprised 11 percent of beer market share. Non-refillable glass bottles made up 3 percent and  refillable bottles had dropped to 86 percent. By 1984 only 8 percent of beer volume was packaged in refillable bottles. Refillable market share is now less than 4 percent of packaged beer volume.

The soft drink industry was slower to move from a refillable, reusable system to a one-way, disposable system. In 1960 nearly one-half (47 percent) of beer was sold in one-way containers while only 6 percent of soft drinks were sold in one-way bottles and cans. Today less than 1percent of packaged soft drink volume is sold in refillable bottles.

Economic instruments such as deposits allow refillables to compete in the marketplace with one-way, disposable cans and bottles. This is evidenced by data from the Beer Institute which shows that most states with mandatory container deposits have a higher percentage of refillable beer bottles than states without deposit laws. According to the Beer Institute, the market share for refillables dropped to 3.3 percent in 1998. However, in 1998 11 states had a refillable market share of 7 percent or more. Of those 11 states, 7 require deposits on one-way, non-refillable beer and soft drink containers. In one of the deposit states (Massachusetts), 18 percent of total beer volume was sold in refillables in 1998.



Soft Drink Container Mix in the U.S.
(as a percent of total volume sold)
Year Refillable Bottles NR Bottles Cans Plastic Bottles All one-way Containers
1947 100 0 0 0 0
1960 95 2 4 0 6
1969 67 13 20 0 33
1980 31 14 37 18 69
1984 20 15 41 24 80
1998 0.4 0.3 48.3 50.9 99.5
Source: Can and Bottle Bills, CalPIRG, 1981 for 1947-60 data;1986 Statistical Profile, National Soft Drink Association,1986 for 1969-84 data; Beverage World, June 1999 for1998 data. Note: Figures may not add up to 100% due to rounding.

     Beer Container Mix in the U.S.
(as a percent of total volume sold)
Year Refillable Bottles NR Bottles Cans Plastic Bottles All one-way Containers
1947 86 3% 11 0 11.03
1960 53 10% 37 0 37.1
1970 26 22 53 0 75
1980 12 32 56 0 88
1984 8 26.4 65.6 0 92
1998 3.3 40% 56.70% 0 97%
Source: Can and Bottle Bills, CalPIRG, 1981 for 1947-80 data; Beer Institute, 1998 for1984 data, 1999 for 1998 data. NOTE: Figures may not add up to 100% due to rounding.

Glass Manufacturing and Bottle Bills

This letter was written April 27, 2007, to some NC state Senators concerning what can be done about glass recycling:


Dear Senator:

I am writing you about the need for glass recycling in North Carolina. I work in management at a plant in Lexington, North Carolina for Owens-Illinois, the largest glass container manufacturer in the United States. My job involves both purchasing and processing recycled glass, and so I am intimately involved with glass recycling here in our state.

I understand that bill number S 215, The Litter Reduction Act of 2007, was introduced back in February. By placing a deposit on all containers, including glass, more glass would be recycled and less waste would be sent to our landfills.

My plant purchases cullet, recycled glass, from as far away as Detroit, Michigan and Massachusetts. This increases the cost of cullet to more than $30 a ton over what we can get from in-state. Most of this added cost is due to freight expense. If the cullet we need were readily available in North Carolina, we would save a significant amount in freight expense as well as reduce the amount of gasoline used in intrastate shipping.

Also, the quality of cullet from bottle bill states is significantly better than cullet purchased from in-state. One of our highest rejects at our factory is due to “stones.” A stone is an inclusion of contaminate material in a glass container, and can cause as much as 0.5% of rejected ware at my facility. A stone can be a point of stress in the bottle. If it is not caught by our inspection machines, it is possible that it can be sent to a filling line and literally explode. Most stones are due to contamination from in-state cullet. Cullet processed in North Carolina comes from what is called “3-mix”: plastic, aluminum and glass from curbside recycling. “3-mix” also has contaminates such as pottery, porcelain, cookware, rocks, and all kinds of metals which cannot be melted in our furnaces and end up as stones. “Bottle bill” glass is processed from deposit container programs which do not have the amount of contamination seen in curbside recycling.

Finally, the more glass that is recycled instead of sent to a landfill, the less natural gas and electricity is used in glass manufacturing. For every 10% of cullet used instead of virgin batch materials, there is an energy savings of about 100,000 BTUs per ton of glass melted.

I urge your support in the passage of S 215. It makes good business sense as well as good environmental practice. It’s a win-win for my company, our community, and the state of North Carolina. Please contact me at your convenience if you have any questions concerning this matter.


Dan Pasker
Combustion Engineer
O-I Winston-Salem Plant #06