January 31, 2010
Drinking Beer in Cans and Other Middle East Regional Recycling Problems
These steel cans will take years to oxidize completely
Let’s face it everybody: recycling, or the lack of recycling that is, is one of the biggest environmental problems this planet faces after climate change.
This situation is a very acute one here in the Middle East, as noted in some previous Green Prophet articles such as “The Middle East is Drowning in Waste,” Lebanon’s Sidon garbage dump (where “you smell it before you even see it”) and Israel’s well known “landmark” the Hiriya garbage mountain that is in the process of being turned into a national park.
But one apparently growing problem, at least in alcohol consuming Israel that is, is the one dealing with litter caused by beer and other beverages processed in non-recyclable containers – especially cans.
Israel used to do a lot better in regards to recycling edible liquid containers, including milk (which used to be delivered in glass bottles like it was once in America), soft drinks, wines and other locally produced alcoholic beverages; and of course beer.
America recently “celebrated” the beer can’s 75th birthday, and that country’s lack of marketing beer in refillable bottles (only 3%) is being compared to countries like Norway (95%) and Germany (84%) who still manage to sell most of their brews in recyclable bottles.
Israel got into the throwaway container age at a much later date than other countries, and this is probably connected to changing consumer habits as people became more prosperous. Beer being produced in cans, as well as non-returnable bottles only began in earnest in the late 1970’s when the country’s main beverage producers, Tempo Beer Co. Ltd, whose increasing manufacture of beverages in non-recyclable containers has been noted by environmental organizations such as Guardians of the Environment, and the Central Soft Drink Beverage Production Company (Coca Cola in Israel) began producing beer and soft drinks in cans.
In the case of Coca Cola, one of the main reasons was selling their beverages in coin operated dispensing machines, which were becoming popular all over Israel. Beer in cans, however, simply followed along, as people got used to drinking soft drinks and other beverages in cans and other throw-away containers, including glass and plastic bottles.
Although efforts to recycle cans and other throwaway beverage containers have been made by Israel’s Ministry of the Environment, the problem of empty beer and soft drink cans and bottles littering beaches, parks, and other places is still a serious one despite an ongoing policy of charging a 25 Agorot deposit fee (about 8 US cents) on many non-recyclable bottles and cans (some recyclable beer bottles fetch much more). The bottle and can recycling “industry” has turned into a way of making money for many of Israel’s impoverished classes (as it has in countries like the USA), and is also way for organized crime families to “recycle” large sums of ill-begotten funds earned by selling narcotics, prostitution, extortion and other illegal activities.
Scientific research has found that it takes a plastic bottle around 430 years to disintegrate in the wild and an aluminum can between 200 and 500 years (depending on the amount of acidity or alkaline found in the soil). Glass bottles can last up to a million years! So taking these sobering statistics to mind, we should all take recycling a bit more seriously. Who knows? For some of us anyway, it might evolve into a whole new career!