It works in Canada.

No, we're not talking about universal health care.

We're talking about beer bottles. Yes, beer bottles.

For as long as we can remember, our neighbors to the north have not been a throw away society, at least not when it came to consuming their favorite malt beverage.

You see, there's no such thing as a throw-away bottle in Canada. If you choose to throw them away, it costs you money.

For every bottle returned (to a designated location), imbibers receive 10 cents per bottle, or $2.40 per case.

It's serious money in the fact that it motivates people to gather up their empties and return them for the deposit.

Such isn't the case in Pennsylvania, at least not in recent years.

In the old days, back before we became a throw away society, returnable bottles were the most popular way to purchase beer. Purchasers were assessed $1.50 per case, which would be refunded when they returned the empties. But society got away from that early form of recycling.

Now the tradition may die out completely.

One of the last breweries in the county that still sells beer in returnable glass bottles is thinking of doing away with the practice, unless current customers respond. Straub Brewery, in western Pennsylvania,

is begging customers to return thousands of empty cases. If the response is good, they will continue to sell beer in returnable containers. If not, say goodbye to the practice.

Closer to home, the Yuengling Brewery, the nation's oldest, is doing away with reutrnables this fall.

"The consumer's been indoctrinated; we're a throwaway society," company owner Dick Yuengling told an Associated Press reporter. "Everybody's environmentally conscious, but if you put a case of returnable bottles in front of them, they say, 'What's that?'"

Most brewers stopped using returnable bottles because they require extra energy to clean them and transport them, since they are heavier so they don't break and must be shipped both ways.

But we believe, with all the technology available today, that a return to returnables would be a good idea.

If the Canadians can do it, so can we. All it takes is some legislation coming out of Harrisburg to point us back in that direction.

It would be good for the environment. It would be good for consumers (especially those who don't recycle), and it would be good for the economy.

Bob Urban

rurban@tnonline.com [1]