Convenient for Whom?
June 10, 2005
Convenient for Whom?

There is a lot of debate about the use of alternative packaging by bottlers around the world. Consumers are seeking alternative and more convenient packaging, while bottlers are seeking to meet their demands. While the “Consumer is King,” manufacturers must assess the impact of their decisions on the environment, and whether they are sustainable. As the Brewery celebrates 20 years of manufacturing, consideration will be given to alternative packaging, and how best to meet the needs of the consumer to remain competitive. A number of considerations should be evaluated as we seek the way forward.{{more}}

PET – (Polyethylene terephthalate)

Popular among the kids because of the variety of drinks and flavors, PET is one of fastest growing forms of packaging in the beverage industry. Regrettably the greatest advantage this method has is its convenience, the fact that it is light and can be taken anywhere. With the attractive sleeves and greater possibilities for design, manufacturers use this as a means of attracting the unassuming public.

An examination of our environment will reveal the impact of PET. It is unsightly, quite visible in our drains and beaches, and has reportedly been discovered in the stomach of fishes as it is mistaken for jellyfish.

The following will also have to be considered:

• Can the local land fill deal with the collection and disposal of PET, and what are the inherent costs?

• Can our local environment cope with the persistent disposal of plastic in the environment. If improperly disposed of, PET results in litter on beaches, roadsides and drains.

• Non-renewable resource – The population cries daily for the increased cost of food and electricity. We must remember that plastic is produced from crude oil, a valuable limited and non-renewable resource.

• Do we have the technology and infrastructure? The lack of developed infrastructures/technologies for recycling of waste will be an important consideration. Given the scope and nature of the current landfill facilities; there will be the need for investment in recycling and sorting facilities. In addition, requisite laws will need to be implemented to add a deposit to the PET bottles to ensure that they are returned to distributors for recycling or destruction.

Glass Bottles

The conventional packaging method utilized by the Brewery has been glass bottles.

There has been a lot of debate in the local media and Government about the use of glass at public functions. Bottles have been used as objects to inflict injuries upon others, and when broken form a threat to patrons. We must however consider what glass means to us and the environment:

The use of glass has a number of advantages for our environment: Recycling reduces the demand for raw materials. For every tonne of recycled glass used, 1.2 tonnes of raw materials are preserved, Glass can be recovered from restaurants, companies, schools, functions and organizations, thus ensuring that they are recycled. It is estimated that recycling two bottles saves enough energy to boil water for five cups of tea. Recycling reduces the among of waste glass which needs to be land filled. Although glass is inert and is not directly hazardous to the environment, it will remain there indefinitely.

The raw materials used to make glass (sand, limestone, soda ash) are cheap and in plentiful supply.

SABMiller Plc and Anheuser-Busch are two of the major beer manufacturers in the world who have sought to use aluminum cans for beer.

• The aluminum can is the fastest chilling beverage container and is very effective at maintaining the fizz of the beverage until it is opened. Canning has a number of other advantages including; stackability, cost, the ability to advertise right on the can and more efficient use of shelf space. In terms of beer, canning also protects the beer against sunlight which will help maintain its taste and shelf-life.

• The aluminum can is 100% recyclable; there are no labels or covers to be removed.

• Anything made of aluminum can be recycled repeatedly: not only cans, but aluminum foil, plates and pie molds, window frames, garden furniture and automotive components are melted down and used to make the same products again. The recycling rate for aluminum cans is already above 70% in some countries.

The greatest challenge to the local industry will be recycling and disposal of the cans.

As we examine the way forward we must balance our economic development with the ability of the environment to sustain economic growth. Tourism and other related service sectors have been identified as our greatest potential for survival. As such, any decision to import or manufacture using any of the packaging methods identified above must be carefully assessed to ensure that our fragile ecosystems are not negatively impacted. The population should be encouraged to use glass bottles instead and limit their purchase of plastic bottles until the manufacturers can demonstrate that either it is preferable for the country as a whole to use plastic bottles, or establish a system whereby these plastic bottles are adequately disposed of and/or recycled.