April 2015's Friday session is hosted by the Micro Brewer blog.
To be or not to be, that's the question. No, actually it isn't. Aprils session is about cans and bottles. Though here we go:
If you look closer onto bottling or canning you might look on different aspects of it. Let's start with the bottle.
is around for years in different sizes, shapes and even materials. The prefered material by brewers is glass. The taste that comes from a glass bottle is neutral (most of the time) which makes it one of the best packing for liquids, especially beers. As far as scientists can search today drinking from a glas bottle doesn't cause any harm to humans. Though we consider drinking from a glass bottle as safe. If bottles are used in a recycle system they are considered to be environmental friendly. They only had to be cleaned and could then reused for many times. But glass bottles have one big disadvantage: they weight much more than their PET counterparts or cans. Their weight leads to higher transport costs and at the end the consumer has to carry the weight home.
The PET (still bottle)
PET bottles are lighter and they don't break easily. But research isn't clear about whether or not PET bottles could be harmfull because of releasing substances into the liquid. There are recycle systems in place but not the bottles but the shreddered PET is reused. There are bottles that can be reused more often (up to 25 times) but this is the minority (and declining). We also have to remember that PET is plastic, which comes from oil. In days of peak oil (check Transition Town) this is not really sustainable. We brewers have to think further. Coca Cola was looking into PET made from organic glycol but only up to some percentage. Now they totaly got rid of reusable PETs - one way is their new future. In Germany the total amount of reusable PET was about 28% - now declining.
I consider non reusable PET a total no-go, especially for micro breweries as they are not sustainable - which is what micro breweres should be considering. If micro breweres are not looking into sustainability who else would?
I really don't like drinking from them when it comes to beer. For transport reasons they are pretty cool - but you have to poure them into a glass.
And now: The can
When it comes to cans I have to addmit: I personally have no feelings for them. Ok, they are light, though transport costs are low. Ok, they can rot because it is aluminum - not like PET which stays in natur for ages. But aluminum takes a lot of energy for production - but 2nd use & recyling it is cheap. They also have this strange taste when the liquid is consumed directly from the can. And that's what I really don't like: the aluminum taste. I consider them a no-go for micro breweries.
For me glass bottles are still the most sustainable and prefered way for beer packaging. The taste is stable, the glass doesn't react with the liquid and they can be reused for many times. New produced glass consists of up to 60% of recycled glass. For a global world PET and Can might be the best. But for local brewers and beers the glass bottle is still the best.