You’ve probably heard of “three R’s” of sustainability: reduce, reuse and recycle. The goal of the three R’s is to prevent waste and conserve natural resources.
So what do we mean when we talk about reduce, reuse, and recycle anyway? And how do the Three R’s apply to Utah beer laws?
To help answer this question, we’re going to reference the Responsibility in Packaging program at New Belgium Brewing Company in Fort Collins, CO.
The first objective should be to use fewer resources in the first place. It takes a heck-of-a-lot of resources to manufacture, transport, and dispose of beer packaging, so reduction minimizes the use of new resources.
Unfortunately, Utah law prohibits restaurants, bars and breweries from serving beer above 5% ABV directly into a glass. It’s the epitome of senseless waste.
Utah breweries waste precious resources and lose millions of dollars packaging beer to comply with a Utah law that prohibits selling heavy beer in containers larger than 1-liter.
Use materials more than once in their original form instead of throwing them away after each use. Reuse keeps new resources from being used for a while longer, and old resources from entering the waste stream.
The most sustainable option for consuming beer is to pour it from a keg into a reusable glass. This one small change to Utah’s beer law would eliminate the use of millions of bottles and cans per year that end up in Utah landfills.
Although recycling uses energy, it helps to prevent new resources from being used and old materials from entering the waste stream. Both aluminum and glass can be recycled an infinite number of times.
Which container - bottle or can - comes closest to being sustainable?
According to New Belgium Brewery, there is 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.
How can a Utah beer lover make a difference?
Drink draft beer out of a reusable glass and support the Utah Consumer Coalition in our efforts to advocate for changes to Utah beer laws. And by all means, encourage your favorite establishments to recycle their bottles and cans.