In the US, we’re used to recycling our plastic bottles and glasses, getting 5 to 10 cents back in return. But returning big reusable bottles emptied of beer for a refund at convenience, liquor and grocery stores is the norm in Mexico. If you buy a liter of Tecate at a small liquor store, you’re told that the price is more than on the label because you’ll get a refund if you return the beer bottle. Some of the bottles have noticeably been cleaned before with a clear line of wear across the brown glass.
The practice of returnable bottles is common in Madagascar too, where you get a beer at roadside stands where they sell Gold or THB (Three Horses Beer) in returnable bottles.
You can also return a bottle of beer in Ecuador where there is only one choice in bottled beer, a large one or a small one. Returnable beer bottles are common enough in Germany, as well. According to The Atlantic, in Norway, over 90% of all beverage containers sold are returned for recycling.
Why Not in the US?
The practice of reusing bottles is good sense and it has always made American folks who are into recycling wonder, why don’t we do this in the US? Of course, reusing bottles was typical in the US once upon a time. According to the Container Recycling Institute, the disposable can appeared in ‘38 and within 10 years encompassed 11% of the beer market in America. Reusable bottles fell to 86% of the market in that same time while non-reusable bottles increased to 3%.
Over time, the use of refillable bottles for both beer and soda dropped off dramatically. Soft drink bottles were 100% refillable in ‘47, stated by GrassRoots Recycling Network. By 2000, under 1% of soft drinks were bottled in refillable containers.