Any brewery packaging beer in rigid plastic can carriers or plastic film rings should have a formal take-back program acknowledging that they are NOT curbside recyclable and encouraging consumers to return them to a brewery (including its own) for re-use or proper separate-stream recycling by a plastics processor.
A successful program will actively promote its efforts through social media posts and with a visible sign or collection bin in the taproom. Even better would be a blog post or website page that explains the brewery’s take-back policy and its commitment to doing right by the environment.
Breweries planning to re-use carriers should provide specific details and limitations (if any) about their take-back policy, i.e. “we accept carriers in good condition, only 4-packs, of certain color(s), free of stickers, etc.
Some breweries have even offered consumer incentives similar to a bottle deposit scheme for their carrier take-back programs, such as refunding them 5 cents per carrier. Note that this does not violate restrictions in states that prohibit “happy hour” discounts on alcohol purchased for on-site consumption.
Others have partnered with local distribution accounts such as nearby liquor stores or restaurants who save can carriers and return them to the brewery for re-use when beer shipments are delivered.
Collected carriers intended for re-use should be properly cleaned or sanitized in a standard commercial dishwasher, with an antibacterial detergent solution in a utility sink, or with another sanitization method that the brewery is already using for other operations.
Breweries that don’t re-use should still offer a take-back program, and initiate a donation program that shares their collected carriers with neighboring breweries that do re-use, or arrange for them to be properly recycled.
Excess or damaged can carriers should be sent for proper recycling through one of these channels:
If in Metro Boston, collaborate with one of the 4 breweries (Aeronaut, Harpoon, Lamplighter, Trillium) contracting for collection services provided GreenLabs Recycling.
Make an arrangement with your packaging provider to take specified quantities of carriers back to its warehouse and eventually be delivered to a recycling processor.
Collect a gaylord box full (approximately 12,000) and deliver it to a recycling processor such as Stockbridge Plastics, Warehouse Plastics, or 77 Recycling through prior arrangement.
Flimsy six-pack rings are accepted by plastic film recycling programs offered by some supermarkets and municipalities, or can be mailed back to the manufacturer through the free RingRecycleMe program.
Contact Rob at EcoFriendlyBeerDrinker@gmail.com for help arranging a pickup or drop off, finding a recycling processor, establishing a donation program with nearby breweries, or collaborating with other breweries.
Breweries should record/estimate the amount of carriers they reuse (and the corresponding savings in packaging expense) annually for data collection and genuine promotional purposes.