Owens-Illinois Keeps Its Sustainability Promise with Refillable Glass Bottles

At Owens-Illinois (O-I), we have promised our customers, employees and nature to be good stewards to our world.

Glass is the most sustainable packaging on Earth, made up of readily available and natural materials and is completely recyclable. But we are constantly looking at and evaluating ways to reduce our carbon footprint and improve sustainability in the glass packaging industry. For example, refillable glass bottles have the lowest carbon footprint of any container on the market, and it’s something that we know a thing or two about, since O-I has been producing refillable bottles since 1903.

Refillable glass bottles are popular globally and is an emerging opportunity in the U.S. market. Typically, refillable containers are less expensive than standard single-use packages on a per-use basis. They are also more sustainable, reducing waste to landfills, carbon emissions and energy consumption. A refillable glass bottle can be used an average of 25 times before being retired from circulation and recycled into new containers. The refillable glass bottle lifecycle for beer, from raw materials to delivery, delivers five times, or 80 percent, less carbon dioxide emissions per hectoliter than aluminum cans.

In partnership with O-I, Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative (OBRC) led the charge of revitalizing refillable bottles in the United States, connecting with us early in the process. With our more than 100 years of producing refillable bottles around the world, the partnership fit naturally based on a shared desire to market premium and sustainable packaging. Oregon and its bottle deposit and return program have been reducing litter and incentivizing recycling for years. OBRC is the entity responsible for picking up and processing nearly 100 percent of all containers redeemed in the state. OBRC’s idea was to develop a returnable bottle for the thriving craft beer market in the state.

The ability to design a custom bottle tailored to the input of some of the initial participating breweries was key, and O-I delivered that solution while still providing the opportunity for each brewer to further customize the bottle with label and closure.

We designed two sizes (12 oz. and 500 ml.) with both aesthetics and operations in mind. The bottle has a unique neck shape and is embossed with the BottleDrop logo on the shoulder and debossed with “Refillable” and “Please Return” on the heel of the bottle. These labels are intentionally placed at wear points on the bottles so it will become more prominent over time as they wear. O-I also designed the bottles with thicker glass, especially at wear points, to withstand multiple uses.

To date, seven Oregon breweries have committed to offering the refillable containers, with more expressing interest.

The partnership with OBRC is a good example of O-I’s commitment to working with organizations whose mission and vision align with ours. We are always open to discussing the future possibilities of glass and creating solutions as pure and iconic as our bottles.

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