Back in November, we reported on a pilot program launching in in Metro Burlington, Vermont, (one of several similar local initiatives popping up around the country) that hopes to divert plastic craft beer and cider can carriers from waste streams. Well, the group followed up with us and reports that, thus far, the program is a success.
Coordinated by Reusable Solutions and Eco-Friendly Beer, sponsored by Casella Waste Systems, and run in collaboration with over a dozen breweries and cideries, the initiative has collected more than 10,000 carriers (sometimes called holders, handles or toppers) from environmentally-conscious consumers through a taproom and retailer take-back program.
Most of the collected packaging has already been cleaned and reused by a variety of breweries, with the rest to be utilized in coming weeks. When necessary, damaged or otherwise unusable carriers get recycled through a unique separate-stream collection opportunity offered by Casella to the pilot program participants.
Other benefits of reuse: The sustainability-focused process that creators Ben Kogan and Rob Vandenabeele have dubbed the “Reusiverse” has already resulted in some notable and measurable outcomes. Chief among them were a decrease in fuel use and its associated emissions from delivery vehicles that haul new carriers cross country from the manufacturer in Eugene, Oregon.
Not only were 270 fewer pounds of freight required, but those breweries reusing rather than purchasing new carriers saved a combined $1,500 on packaging costs. A successful awareness campaign regarding the benefits of reusing the not-easily recyclable packaging rather than discarding it after just one use has also made a difference. Already, tens of thousands of consumers have been informed or reminded about the importance of the REDUCE, Reuse, recycle hierarchy through social media posts and articles published in traditional news outlets.
Other highlights of the program
The program also debuted an interactive can carrier collection map to help consumers find their nearest take-back location, and to learn more about what each business does with collected carriers: reuse, donate or recycle through the Casella program.
In just the 8 weeks since the initiative’s November launch, Black Flannel Brewing & Distilling in Essex has already gathered and reused more than 3,000 carriers to package its beer, half of which came by way of donations from Stowe Cider (too big to reuse themselves because of automated application machinery) and retailer Beverage Warehouse in Winooski.
“The Bevie” has also donated a portion of its 3,000-plus rescued carriers, collected from consumers or saved internally by store staff, to Colchester’s Green Empire Brewing, where co-founder Evan Vacarr has embraced the idea of packaging his brand’s mixed 4 and 6-packs with a rainbow of colors. He estimates that between The Bevie and Four Quarters Brewing (another collection location he picks up from), more than 300 cases have already been sold or distributed to retailers with cleaned and reused carriers on them.
Other pilot program participants that have cultivated successful collection efforts in November and December include Burlington’s Zero Gravity, which donated a full collection bin of 650 carriers for reuse to Lucy & Howe Brewing in Jericho, as well as neighboring Switchback and nearby Weird Window Brewing, both of which have reused many and donated hundreds of others.
What’s next? Reusable Solutions and Eco-Friendly Beer hope to grow the number of Vermont Can Carrier Reuse & Recycle Initiative participants in coming months and are currently contemplating plans for expansion. They hope to secure continued sponsorship with Casella, are seeking additional collaborators or contributors, and are in exploratory discussions with the Vermont Brewers Association on how to eventually make the program accessible to as many breweries and retail outlets throughout the state as possible.