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Let's Drink to the Environment

Bottles or Cans: Which is the Environmental Choice?


no image Out here in British Columbia, we not only enjoy fine beer, but we also place a high value on our super natural surroundings. And, as we all know by now, we need to pay more attention than ever to environmental considerations in order to ensure that our natural endowments are available for our children to enjoy. Which brings us to beer packaging.

When the microbrewery revolution started in BC back in the 1980’s all the beer was sold either as draft or in bottles. Nowadays, more and more craft beer is being sold in cans. So what is more environmentally friendly: bottle or can?

There is a very thorough article comparing the environmental merits of cans vs. bottles over at The answer, as with many environmental issues, is: it depends. Mainly it depends on how far away your beer comes from. Cans tend to be environmentally better if you are drinking European beer, bottles are preferred for domestic.

But we can draw some more specific conclusions:

  1. Locally-brewed craft beer tends your best choice GHG-wise, based on the relatively short distance of travel from brewery to throat.
  2. Producing cans involves mining bauxite in foreign countries and producing aluminum, making this an energy-intensive process, taking more than twice as much energy per unit compared to glass.
  3. Cans are recycled at a fairly high rate, which is great, but in BC bottles are refilled, which is greater. ‘Reuse’ beats ‘recycle’ every time.

So the bottom line is, if you’re drinking beer in BC:

  • support your local brewer and
  • choose bottles over cans for a more environmentally sustainable option. So much the better if you choose 650ml bottles.

Of course, the friendliest choice of all – environmentally, socially, and for the local economy - is to drink local beer at your local pub!

There’s also an interesting article in defense of the glass bottle at And one more tip: avoid those green bottles – they are much harder to recycle than amber. But this one’s easy, since as far as I know, there are no BC brewers using green glass.

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