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The Returnable Glass Bottle has a Low Environmental Footprint
Beer is the only FMCG category where returnable bottles currently dominate. About half of all beer brewed globally is sold in returnable glass bottles. The proportion of beer sales in returnable bottles differs significantly by market, even in the same region. In western Europe, for example, 62% of sales in the Netherlands are in returnable bottles, while in the UK it is close to zero. 
SABMiller has more than 3.5 billion returnable beer bottles in circulation and we operate large returnable bottle fleets across Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America. These bottles can average doing 20-40 trips, substantially reducing the energy and natural resource required for making new glass bottles for every trip.
Apart from reusable kegs for on-tap dispense, returnable beer bottles have the lowest carbon footprint when compared to other packaging options within the SABMiller packaging portfolio. Sustainability considerations remain key drivers of future directions in the glass industry and the beer industry to achieve water, energy and emissions targets and to reduce reliance on virgin resources. Our strategic packaging choices will shape our industries into the future
Looking to the Future
There are currently many markets where returnable glass bottles are thriving and growing, while in other markets this section is under pressure, from both the convenience demanded by consumers and the pressure on floor space from customers. But at SABMiller we believe it is worthwhile exploring options to refresh the image of the returnable glass bottle and to raise awareness of its positive environmental footprint. We know that this packaging choice dominated the industry in the past, and that closed loop processes will have to be part of a sustainable future. Now is the time to explore innovative ways to re-invigorate returnable glass bottles as one packaging option to deliver a prosperous future, delivering both financial and environmental value. 
And, as a member of the Sustainability Pillar’s Steering Committee at The Consumer Goods Forum, I look forward to working with my retailer and manufacturing peers across the consumer goods industry to address the challenge of waste and how best to continue to reduce the environmental footprint connected to it. A single company cannot solve this problem by themselves, so we look forward to participating in the collaborative actions undertaken within The Consumer Goods Forum in order to this drive positive change.

This post was written and contributed by:

André Fourie
Senior Manager, Environmental Value
SABMiller plc