[Letter from City of Madison Mayor to Miller Brewing Company]
Office of the Mayor
February 1, 1999
Mr. John N. MacDonough
Dear Mr. MacDonough,
It has come to my attention that the Miller Brewing Company is test marketing a new plastic beer bottle. I write to bring to your attention several problems this container poses for the city of Madison's recycling efforts and to urge you to reconsider its use.
The plastic beer bottle currently being test marketed contains a number of features that are detrimental to recycling. First and perhaps the biggest problem is the bottle's amber color. Currently, purchasers of our recycled plastic materials do not accept amber bottles and they show no intention of doing so in the future. That means we probably cannot recycle them. Unfortunately, the markings on your bottle suggest that customers can recycle them and, surely, many will attempt to do so. City staff at our recycling facility will have to separate these containers from the rest of the material and dispose of them. That, of course, will raise the cost of our operation.
Unfortunately, the problems with the test market bottle go beyond its color. For instance, the bottle is sealed with an aluminum cap instead of plastic. This aluminum cap is nearly impossible to remove during the recycling process. The bottle label also contains metal. In both cases these materials will remain in the recycled plastic. They are significant contaminants that will reduce value of the material and may render it unusable.
In addition, the new plastic bottle contains a polymer barrier that is necessary to enhance the product's shelf life. Studies suggest this barrier material remains in the plastic when it is recycled and can cause problems for recycling. The problem is serious enough to have prompted a warning from purchasers of our recycled materials that they will reduce the price they pay for our baled plastic if and when these bottles begin to appear.
The City of Madison has made a tremendous investment of effort and resources toward developing our recycling program. It has been as popular as it is successful, preserving both tax dollars and landfill space. By packaging your product in easy to recycle glass and aluminum containers, Miller Brewing Company has contributed to that success.
The introduction of the bottle will undermine Madison's success by lowering the value and appeal of our recycled materials. Based on our experience with single serve soda bottles, it is also likely to increase the amount of material disposed in our landfills. I have every reason to believe the impact will not be the same elsewhere. These consequences leave the City little alternative but to inform our customers that we will not accept these containers in our recycling program. They will also likely prompt public education efforts designed to discourage the use of the containers in favor of glass and aluminum packaging.
Surely your firm has sound reasons to consider the introduction of these new bottles. I hope, nonetheless, you will consider the problems they pose for recycling efforts in Madison and other communities across the state. I hope you will withdraw them from the market.
Thank you very much for your consideration.
Cc: Governor Tommy G. Thompson