What's better for the environment--beer in cans, or bottles? | Recycling | What you can do | David Suzuki Foundation
Photo: What's better for the environment--beer in cans, or bottles?

Thanks to provincial bottle return deposit systems, minimal quantities of packaging end up in municipal landfills. (Credit: jeremydeades via Flickr)

Locally made beer in a glass bottle is better.

If your favourite beer is made in a land far, far away, choose cans. But two other options exist: 1) a draft at a local pub (maybe at a Green Drinks event?) or 2) a local and organic brew.

According to the federal government, the brewing industry maintains a good environmental record. But what does that mean?

Thanks to provincial bottle return deposit systems, minimal quantities of packaging end up in municipal landfills. The national average for recycled glass bottles is 97 per cent and they're reused 15 to 20 times. Aluminum can recovery rates are lower, about 80 per cent.

Apparently our Canadian marketplace is characterized by high bottle usage due to consumer preference, environmental regulations and industry systems to facilitate re-use. Some provinces even impose a levy or a deposit on non-reusable containers (i.e., cans) to deter their use.

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But cans are lighter, right? Yes. And that means transportation emissions are lower. Most cans contain about 40 per cent recycled aluminum, which is also good news. Recycled aluminum requires 95 per cent less energy and produces 95 per cent less greenhouse gas emissions than manufacturing new aluminum.

Another point for glass is that canned beverages—beer, pop, infant formula, etc.—leach bisphenol-A (BPA) from their protective metal linings. BPA is a human-made chemical linked to breast and prostate cancer, and many more health concerns.

Finally, keep your eyes peeled for certified organic beers. Sustainability runs deep with many companies that compost, use rain barrels and even power their operations with renewable energy! Always recycle bottles and cans.

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