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  • AntoineR

Going back to deposit schemes in the beverage sector to win the war against plastic bottles

Updated: May 23, 2023

Many empty glass bottles in a box

Circularity was once the norm in the beverage industry and we should definitely welcome it *again*.

Let's not forget that beverage bottles used to be re-used many many times in the past, before we lost our minds and ended the bottle deposit system for the current linear one-use bottle system... 🚮

Robert Friedel, from University of Maryland, goes back in time to recap the history of our beloved beverage containers in his paper "American Bottles: The Road to No Return".

Back in the days, disposability was seen as an avenue to greater consumption and thus greater profits. In fact, the *true* cost of plastic bottles was not taken into consideration. Now, a few decades in this broken system, and after considering the negative environmental externalities of such industry, it is clear that the wrong path was followed.

(Note: More info on the carbon footprint of beverages packaging can be found in this report by The Carbon Trust)

We often see development and economic growth as a straight line pointing up to the sky. This simplification omits a fundamental component to life: when faced with multiple choices, picking one of the sub-optimal paths will happen more frequently than not when acting under imperfect information.

Embracing "Circularity" in our economic system ♻ also means looking back in time, admitting when something has gone wrong, and backtracking when necessary. These feedback loops 🔄 are paramount to progress and find a better path forward ➿

Historians are encyclopaedias of our mistakes and a great help to move forward in the right direction 📚


"A person who does not know the history of the last 3,000 years wanders in the darkness of ignorance, unable to make sense of the reality around him." - Goethe.


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