First Statewide Refillable Bottle System (Beer) Comes to Oregon

The first statewide refillable bottle system has come to Oregon, where 7 breweries now offer beer in returnable, refillable bottles. The program cuts down on plastic waste and lets people enjoy an ice-cold adult beverage without BPA and the other harmful chemicals that can leach out of the plastic lining of aluminum cans. [1]

Joel Schoening of the Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative (OBRC) explained:

“Every time that bottle gets reused, you’re cutting the carbon footprint of that bottle in half. It’s the most sustainable choice in the beer aisle.”

Some research suggests that reusing bottles cuts their carbon footprint by even more than that; a study out of Canada found that once a refillable system gains traction, 98% of the bottles get returned, and it uses 93% less energy than creating a new container.

It takes between 47% and 82% less water to wash refillable bottles than it does to make new single-use bottles for the delivery of the same amount of beverage.

The new bottles can be refilled up to 40 times. Customers can drop them off at any of the OBRC’s 21 redemption centers. [2] [3]

Schoening, the cooperative’s spokesperson, said: [1]

“We’re in a really unique position to make this work. We’re introducing a bottle we can sell to any brewery that’s interested in using that bottle.”

The new, thicker bottles now lining store shelves in Oregon are composed of mostly recycled glass. The bottles were designed so that they could be easily separated from the rest of the glass in the existing bottle deposit system, according to Schoening, ensuring that they get refilled instead of recycled.

For beer-lovers, however, it’s business as usual, as long as they collect their bottle deposits.

Schoening said: [2]

“I like to say all the consumer has to do is choose to buy it. When they go through a machine, they’ll have a unique bar code that will identify them as different from another glass bottle.”

Breweries are only legally allowed to distribute 20% of the beer they put in refillable bottles to out-of-state locations. This prevents too many bottles from being shipped out but never returned.

Schoening hopes that the 7 breweries currently participating in the cooperative will soon have company from cider makers and wineries in the state. He is in talks with several companies about using refillable bottles that might come in different colors.

Additionally, the cooperative plans on offering a loyalty program where buyers who return a box of 12 refillable bottles receive a 20% discount (12 cents instead of 10 cents).

OBRC is also talking with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality about figuring out exactly how much carbon the program is saving. The cooperative is also trying to bring a bottle-washing facility to Portland, which they hope to build by 2020. In the meantime, all the refillable bottles will be sent to a facility in Montana for washing.


[1] Treehugger

[2] EarthFix

[3] MentalFloss

Adidas Sold One Million Shoes Made from Ocean Plastic in 2017

German sportswear giant Adidas helped keep plastic out of the mouths of fish and off the world’s beaches in 2017 by selling 1 million shoes made from ocean plastic. [1]

Last year, Adidas teamed up with environmental initiative Parley for the Oceans to create its UltraBoost shoe, made from plastic found in the ocean, and introduced 3 new versions of the footwear.

At the time, Adidas said its goal was to create a million pairs of UltraBoost shoes.

Adidas CEO Kasper Rorsted said:

“We last year sold 1 million shoes made out of ocean plastic.”

Each UltraBoost shoe reuses 11 plastic bottles.

For this year’s Earth Day weekend, Adidas once again partnered up with Parley, this time to “upcycle” reclaimed ocean plastics into limited-edition Major League Soccer (MLS) uniforms. All 23 MLS teams donated the uniforms that weekend for the campaign, dubbed “A World Without Plastic Pollution.” Each jersey is made from 13 recycled plastic bottles and will be available to purchase on the Adidas and MLS online stores. [2]

What’s more, this past July the global sportswear maker said that it will commit to using only recycled plastic by 2024. According to CNN:

“Adidas … also said it would stop using virgin plastic in its offices, retail outlets, warehouses and distribution centers, a move that would save an estimated 40 tons of plastic per year, starting in 2018.”

The company joins numerous other companies looking to make the world more ‘green’ by eliminating plastics, including:

  • Supermarket chain Kroger, which announced August 23 that the supermarket chain will phase-out plastic bags from all of its stores by 2025.
  • Among others


[1] CNBC

[2] AdWeek

Featured image credit: Adidas

These Shoes are Made of Algae, and They Help Clean This Lake in China

More than 2 million people were left scrambling for safe drinking water after China’s Lake Taihu exploded with algae a decade ago, and ever since then, the government has been spending hundreds of millions of dollars a year trying to solve the problem. One of the most awe-inspiring solutions involves harvesting algae from Lake Taihu before it spreads too far, and turning it into a flexible, rubbery material that is now being used to make shoes. [1]

Lake Taihu has been mostly famous for its out-of-control algae problem over the last 20 years. The water contains a noxious mixture of billions of tons of wastewater, animal waste, and garbage which has flowed unconstrained due to weak regulations. The body of water is intended to provide 30 million people with drinking water, but the blue-green algae kills marine life, and is hard to filter out. [2]

It was in 2007 when nearly 1/3 of the lake was covered in algae, and the government suspended water collection from Taihu, limiting how much bottled water could cost because of price-gouging. Officials also shut down factories surrounding the lake to stem the pollution.

Turning the Algae into Bio-Plastic

A company called Bloom is the creator of a mobile platform which pulls algae from the lake, purifies the water, returns it to the lake, and then turns the algae into a tiny pellet that can be used like a plastic. The goal of Bloom’s founder, Rob Falken, is to replace conventional plastic products, which are usually made from petroleum-based pellets.

Source: Eco Watch

Falken said:

“The end goal is to remove as much of the petroleum feedstock as possible. When you take a waste stream from nature—there naturally but there in such mass because of manmade inputs—we can take that feedstock, that problem, and functionalize it into usable goods that are the exact same quality, indistinguishable, from the status quo that’s out there today.”

The mobile platform uses gentle suction to draw the algae, while filters prevent marine life from being harmed in the process. The harvester also pulls nitrogen and phosphorus from the water, which makes it harder for algae blooms to flourish. Millions of pounds of algae have been pulled from Lake Taihu by Bloom.

Bloom supplies the plastic-like pellets to Vivobarefoot, which turns the pellets into its water-resistant Ultra III shoes. Currently, the shoes are made from petroleum-based ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA). In July 2017, Vivobarefoot will launch a version that is a blend of algae and EVA, instead. One pair of shoes requires cleaning 57 gallons of water. [1]

Source: Fast Company

The current material uses 40% algae and 60% EVA, but Bloom is working on materials that use more algae.

Algae blooms, which thrive in warm water with high carbon concentrations, are becoming a serious problem all over the world due to climate change. In the United States, algae led Florida to declare a state of emergency in 2016 when it spread from Lake Okeechobee to nearby beaches, killing manatees and other aquatic life.

A toxic algae bloom delayed California’s 2015 crabbing season. And in 2014, an algae bloom in the Ohio River in Ohio made drinking water temporarily unsafe for half a million people in Toledo.

The Ultra III shoes could prove to be an effective method of stomping out both petroleum-based products and algae blooms.

Falken says:

“We’ve already got more algae than we’ll ever need. Two companies are helping to clean China’s Lake Taihu by pulling algae from the water, transforming it into pellets, and using those pellets to make shoes.” [2]


[1] Fast Company

[2] Eco Watch

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