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'Smart' glass bottle handling makes an impact (sidebar)

SBA plays central role in Sweden’s returnable glass bottle system

The Swedish Brewers Association’s role is significant in that returnable glass bottles are by far Sweden’s dominant package used for beer, soft drinks, and mineral water. One-way or nonreturnable glass bottles represent only 1% of the glass beverage market in the country, according to Sven Romander, the association’s technical manager.

Stockholm-based SBA is a trade organization of Swedish breweries, soft drink, and mineral water producers. “Our members range from big companies like Carlsberg and Coca-Cola to very small local brewers, all in Sweden,” says Romander.

Beverage producers pay membership fees to SBA based on their sales. The more the beverage company sells, the higher its membership fee. Membership Euros allow companies to use the system’s glass bottles and plastic crates rather than having to buy them on their own. That provides a financial incentive, Romander says.

SBA has two primary functions. One is controlling the glass bottle system in Sweden, where clear or amber glass bottles are reused by all SBA member firms. Because the glass itself is not decorated, firms use glued-on paper labels to print product information details and to provide marketing differentiation.

Romander explains that member firms use only 33-cL and 50-cL sizes. Consumers typically purchase bottles packed in high-density polyethylene crates, in quantities of 15 for the large size and 20 for the 33-cL version. They pay a deposit that’s returned when the consumer brings the empty bottle-filled crate back to the retail store. Breweries pick up the crates of empties from the stores.

A key concern in SBA’s controlling process, Romander explains, has to do with damaged or broken bottles. “It’s our duty to check our vendor-member lines to make sure they don’t damage the bottles. Now we can actually measure bottle impact and vibration to pinpoint areas of concern on the line.”

SBA’s other critical function is to help its members improve line efficiency. The Smart Bottle assists in this function by establishing a base line to use as a reference, and to give companies a chance to correct problem areas.

See the story that goes with this sidebar: ‘Smart’ glass bottle handling makes an impact

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