Happy Birthday Canned Beer: 75 Years of Waste and Lousy Beer

beer recycling cans photo

image via weburbanist

On January 24, 1935, the Gottfried Krueger Brewing Company of New Jersey sold the first can of beer in the world. Live Science writes that "The experiment took off and American drinkers haven't looked back since, nowadays choosing cans over bottles for the majority of the 22 gallons of beer they each drink per year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. "

So why in the USA and nowhere else?


Heather Roberts, Message in a bottle

Nobody a mile north or south of the American border touches the stuff in cans, it just doesn't taste as good. But the American taste for beer was changed by Prohibition; Live Science writes:

Ironically, it was the Prohibition that ultimately shaped the American population's taste for beer. The stronger beer that was the norm before Prohibition gave way to much weaker varieties afterwards, as people had become accustomed to bootlegged brews, which were always watered down for maximum profit.

But the real advantage of the can over the bottle was that it wasn't returnable, and the brewers could ship to a much wider area and not worry about having to take back the bottles. Since Americans were already used to weak lousy beer, it did not take much to convince them to drink it in cans instead of bottles.


The decline in the amount of beer sold in bottles also led to the decline of the local brewery; a single monster brewery could serve half the country. And as we noted in our post Recycling is Bullshit, it also led to a shift from producer responsibility, where the brewery was responsible for recovering its bottles and refilling them, to user and taxpayer responsibility, where our municipalities have to pick them all up, separate them and try to sell the stuff for recycling.

Seventy five years is a good retirement age. It is time to retire the beer can and the disposable bottle and switch to good local beer in returnable bottles. It is not only the green thing to do, but it tastes better. As Pablo noted in Eat Local, Drink Local Beer:

The best solution for keeping your eco-impact low is to drink local beer. Not only does this support your local economy, and support the art of craft beer making, but it is also a great way to enjoy creative and innovative new recipes and techniques.

More on beer in TreeHugger:
It's Time for Deposits. On Everything.
Eat Local, Drink Local Beer

Related Content on Treehugger.com