Here at New Belgium, we continually strive to honor nature at every turn of our business, and to work toward continuous, innovative quality and efficiency improvements. We hold all elements of our business to these values, including the packaging which we utilize to deliver our product to the customer. We assess packaging decisions through a holistic process that takes into account the total life cycle of materials and systems; evaluating an array of environmental & social factors, alongside packaging integrity, performance, and economics.
We envision a future with cradle-to-cradle packaging design and higher recycling & recovery rates across the U.S., and we believe that an approach which combines both action and advocacy across the beverage industry & supply chain will help to move the needle on these issues.
We have established goals for packaging sustainability, focusing upon four key areas: Source Reduction, Sustainable Material Selection & Design, Optimizing Efficiency, and Recovery & Recycling Advocacy. CHECK OUT OUR PACKAGING REDUCTION GOALS HERE!
We are big proponents of the concept of Extended Producer Responsibility, which argues that the manufacturer of a product should be responsible for its end of life, including designing for recyclability and supporting policy which increases recycling rates. One recent success in this arena is the Glass Recycling Coalition: we recently co-founded the GRC in order to bring people and businesses together to make glass recycling work! Visit the their website to learn more about glass recycling in your community.
We are often asked which container is the most sustainable option. Drinking draft beer from a reusable cup is the choice that we tend to recommend as the most sustainable, but all three containers have their ups and downs. We want our consumers to be informed when the package choice is presented, so we made this handy decision map for you to check out, along with plenty of nerdy details below!
Comprehensive, unbiased studies comparing the total environmental impact of glass bottles to that of aluminum cans do not exist, so we see a lot of guessing going on out there and many of those guesses are being stated as though they were ultimate facts.
Below are some questions we hear often along with answers based on the research we’ve done. Remember, though, that since a comprehensive study has never been conducted, we don’t really know which container is ultimately environmentally superior.
Which container - bottle or can - comes closest to being sustainable?
With the data we have reviewed, no clear winner.
The beginning of the lifecycle of the aluminum can (mining of bauxite, smelting of aluminum) has a larger impact than glass. But later in their lifecycles, the glass bottle has the larger impact (heavier to transport & more difficult to recycle). At the end of the day it’s possible they even out.
The best container is the one that ends up in the recycling bin.
Both aluminum and glass can be recycled an infinite number of times and doing so has many benefits:
But I thought cans were more sustainable because they're lighter to ship?
It is true that cans, since they're lighter & they stack better, require less fuel for shipping than bottles. However, this is one small segment of the containers' lifecycle, and not enough info to make a verdict.
But I thought glass bottles were more sustainable because the mining of bauxite to make aluminum is destructive and toxic?
The same notions apply here as to the question above. Mining of bauxite has huge ecological impacts that are arguably greater than those of mining sand for glass, but again, it’s only one segment of the lifecycle.
What can beer drinkers do to make a meaningful difference?
Recycle your cans and bottles! If you are at a bar or restaurant that does not recycle, encourage them to do so. This website is a good place to look for local recycling facilities, as is a meeting with your local waste hauler.
Little nerd note: Glass is difficult to pull out at a sorting facility, so throwing it in your commingled bin doesn’t ensure it will be recycled. Implementing a glass-only recycling bin and locating a glass-only collection spot in your area will give the glass the best chance of being recycled.
How can my love for drinking beer have the absolute lowest impact today?
Drink draft beer out of a reusable cup.
What is New Belgium Brewing doing to make a difference?