Eli5: Why is beer still sold in glass bottles?


Why is beer still sold as glass bottles. Recently my city removed glass from recyclable items and im guessing thats because its harder to recycle then they believed. However. There are some beer thats comes in both can and bottle and 9 times out of 10 its a bottled version. Aluminum must be cheaper right?

In: Other

Recycling a beer bottle: wash it out, refill, stick on new label.

Recycling an aluminum can: melt it down in a furnace and do the whole production process again.

I dont know the answer definitively but I’d say glass bottles are still pretty cheap to use. Also it probably has a better taste out of a bottle. Just like sodas do.

Glass is still incredibly cheap to both reuse and recycle. Beer is packaged in glass because it is still superior to plastic in preventing gas diffusion, and it also pollutes less.

The city (like mine) has probably stopped accepting *non – deposit* glass for recycling. basically, if there isn’t much market for the product, and it is inert in the landfall, than it might not be worth doing economically or environmentally. Beer bottles with deposit are mostly going to be *re – used* as opposed to being recycled.

In our case, the only place that would buy up the glass to actually recycle it was not paying enough to cover the fuel cost of transporting it to them.


deff makes it less convenient and probably wont work well.

Recycling was/is a failed experiment. Recycling is not cost effective in any way, and recycling plastics is worse for the environment than virgin plastic.
Glass is by far more environmentally friendly, colored glass (color dependent) helps protect the beer from sun/uv/science stuff. Glass is inert, metal is not.

There is still a stigma that canned beer affects the taste, however modern cans are made better and have no effect on the taste. And the fact that they totally block light contamination actually makes them better containers to preserve beer.

Glass is one of the easiest materials to recycle. You smash it, melt it, and then recast it.

Reusing a glass bottle is horribly easy. You wash it and inspect it for breaks.

Glass is used for the same reasons why I won’t buy canned bear. Glass truly is air tight and glass does not impart itself onto the beverage. Aluminum is sprayed with a varnish to come “good enough” to use.

Lots of answers here about why glass is so cheap, but not explaining why soda is almost universally sold in plastic bottles then. I don’t think there’s any difference between beer and soda that would make glass more suited to one and plastic to the other, so I have to guess that beer is usually sold in glass bottles because consumers expect it.

Maybe there’s an implication of quality with glass, and selling beer is more about selling an experience than soda is. Both come in aluminum cans, to be sure, but I feel like a plastic bottle of beer at a bar would feel really cheap.

>Recently my city removed glass from recyclable items and im guessing thats because its harder to recycle then they believed.

Glass is very easy to recycle but in single-stream recycling glass has a high chance to shatter and potentially contaminate other recycling materials like plastic or aluminum.

Glass is more expensive to produce and ship, but is inert and retains gas better.

Customers pretty universally perceive glass containers as being more pleasant, and as higher end looking.

It’s really mostly marketing It’s a common customer belief that beer in a bottle is of higher quality. The process for filling then seaming cans used to be more complex and expensive, but there are now boutique companies that build inexpensive can fillers and seamers. Unless your location takes bottle deposits for reuse (not recycling), which is rare, then there’s no advantage a bottle has over a can. They’re cheaper, cheaper to ship because they’re lighter, safer and protect the product better.

The biggest factor is the concept of *Economies of Scale.*

While you’re correct that glass bottles cost a bit more in terms of material, that’s only the first part of the story.

Equipment for crimping bottle caps on glass is potentially cheap and mechanically very simple. It’s well within the reach of mom-and-pop breweries working out of a garage. There are lots of options from simple one a a time hand crimpers to pneumatic units that can crimp an entire crate of bottles. Or even fill then crimp in a two step process. Still not unreasonably expensive.

>However. There are some beer thats comes in both can and bottle and 9 times out of 10 its a bottled version.

So for glass bottles, the initial cost of entry is pretty low, and pretty adaptable to your budget. This is why the smaller guys running batch production usually elect to go with glass.

As others have mentioned, recycling bottles is pretty easy on a small scale. Just buy some more caps and a single action hand crimper, wash the bottles. Refill with your own microbrewed hooch and slap a label on. There’s a brewery in my town that gives a nice little discount if you bring their bottles back, because they just end up washing the bottles in hot water either way.

This is in contrast with equipment for filling, seaming, and sealing aluminum cans which just isn’t something you can do by hand, one at a time. For all intents and purposes it needs to be done on a fully automated filling line. Such machinery, aside from requiring regular, potentially time consuming and expensive maintenance/adjustment, just isn’t cheap in any way. Even with used equipment you still need to pay people to install, setup, and troubleshoot, potentiall tosding out a couple hundred cans in the process. Then toy need to hire somone to feed cans into the line and somone else to package up the filled cans, and have a maintenance guy on call if something goes off kilter.

In order to turn a profit with cans you need to brew and sell tons of beer per day on a low profit margin to make back the cost of buying and running such equipment.

A lot of medium sized breweries simply truck their product in refrigerated tankers to a seperate company they contract with. The latter actually fills, labels, and packages the cans for them. The contractor runs their line nearly 24/7 from dozens of different customers. Such a company might dismiss you offhand if you told them you wanted a chump change run of 1000 cans because you just can’t produce that much beer. It wouldn’t be worth the time it would take them to setup the equipment initially for a run, then wash it down afterwards.

>Recently my city removed glass from recyclable items and im guessing thats because its harder to recycle then they believed.

Depends what you do with it afterwards. Removing the labels is probably the biggest issue.

If the labels are gone, glass scrap is useful as an aggregate for concrete or tarmac. Just throw it in the rock crusher with whatever else. But plastic labels wpuld probably gum up the works in that case.

You can also use a certain percentage of glass scrap as an admixture to make the cement that binds concrete together. Can also make fiberglass insulation out of it. Making consumer goods out of recycled glass isn’t the best because of the added color contaminates and the variable composition. You usually end up with a glass that doesn’t have good strength or color.

>Aluminum must be cheaper right?

Aluminum itself degrades over a period of several decades to several hundred years, especially in alkaline soil with a high salt content. While not as fast as steel for example, it’s fairly environmentally innocuous.

Aluminum is ideal for beer containers because it blocks all light and oxygen which preserves the flavor better it’s also a good heat conductor which chills your beer faster in an ice chest. UV Light tends to degrade the flavor of certain beers which is why dark tinted glass is typically used.