Happy Earth Day! Distillery to reuse, not recycle, bottles

on 22/04/11 at 1:14 pm

Booze News

Vodka is the main ingredient in a lot of cocktails.

But Guy Rehorst doesn’t want the vodka and other spirits made by his Milwaukee company adding to the mix at the local landfill. So on Earth Day, Rehorst’s Great Lakes Distillery is announcing a new campaign to persuade customers to return their empty bottles to Great Lakes, which is cleaning and reusing them.

The program to reuse liquor bottles appears to be the first of its kind in the nation, according to Frank Coleman, a senior vice president at the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States.

For most breweries, wineries and distilleries, the cost of cleaning and reusing their relatively inexpensive bottles would be too high, Rehorst said.

But Great Lakes uses thicker, costlier glass bottles to help market the company’s high-end craft products, Rehorst said. He figures reusing the bottles will save Great Lakes a couple thousand dollars annually.

More importantly, the effort will help the environment, Rehorst said. Reuse is a much “greener” practice than recycling, which uses significant amounts of energy to convert old bottles into new glass.

The reuse program also provides another distinct selling point for Great Lakes, a small craft distillery competing with much larger companies.

The major distillers distribute their spirits throughout the nation, making a reuse program impractical, Rehorst said. Great Lakes sells 90% of its products – including gin, brandy, absinthe and rum – within 100 miles of Milwaukee.

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