Sat | Mar 23, 2019

Happy hour for used liquor bottles - Red Stripe doubles price for returns but insists there’s no shortage

Published:Tuesday | February 19, 2019 | 12:13 AM

Faced with a 10 percentage-point drop in the rate of used bottles and high costs of purchasing new ones for its products, beer manufacturing, production and distribution company Red Stripe has been forced to double payment for each bottle returned to the company.

A media blitz by the company, including via text messaging and full-page advertisements in the major local newspapers, calls for individuals to return bottles and be paid $20 for each and $600 per 24-bottle crate. The company hopes the announced increase will entice individuals to return their empties in a surge.

Red Stripe bottles, including flavoured beers such as Sorrel and Lemon; Heineken; Guinness; Malta; and Smirnoff Ice, are in demand by the company.Gleaner sources have indicated that there is a chronic shortage of bottles at the company, a claim denied by company officials.

“There is no chronic shortage. We spend millions of dollars every year for new bottles and we want to reduce our costs. We have been working on this project for years to ensure there is value for the returns. We are taking a short-term hit, but will reduce the purchase of new glass significantly,” Dianne Ashton Smith, head of corporate relations, told The Gleaner.

The beer giant said recycling figures have declined over the last 10 years, coming from a high in 2009 with 95 per cent of bottles being returned, to 85 per cent in 2018.

Reduce environmental footprint

According to Managing Director Ricardo Nuncio, “ ... Sustainability informs all we do at Red Stripe, and it is important that we reduce our environmental footprint. We needed to provide a greater incentive for closed-loop recycling of bottles, in which bottles come back into the production cycle and are cleaned and refilled with the same product.”

Nuncio believes the low cost of each returned bottle was the reason consumers sent some to landfills.

“While everyone wants to do what’s good for the planet, the low value of the bottles made it easy for consumers to discard them. We are confident that the increase in the redemption value of our bottles will drive a culture shift so that buy-drink-return becomes a way of life in Jamaica,” the release said.

The company’s release said a glass bottle can be reused up to six times in the production cycle without losing its purity and quality.

Middlemen are not expected to pay the full $20 cost per bottle and the company is urging individuals to visit its distribution centres in Kingston and Montego Bay. Returns will also be accepted at wholesales across the island and at Red Stripe 214 Exchange in Kingston.

The company said it reserves the right to reject bottles and crates that do not meet its quality standards.

erica.virtue@gleanerjm.com