Bottle Refunds
Bottle Refunds
Posted by: Kchi (
Date: December 05, 2012 12:17PM

Does anybody remember what year bottlers stopped refilling glass bottles. As a kid in the 60s, one of our main sources of spending money was that we were allowed to return the bottles to the market. We thought it was great, but I remember the manager at the local National or the corner grocery store would be annoyed when we would bring in a shopping cart full of bottles. As a Pepsi family, I remember we would get 2 cents for a Pepsi bottle and a 5 cents for a Quart bottle from flavored soda.

I don't know whether paying for the bottles was a law or just something bottlers did to get their bottles back.

The only bottling plant I remember seeing was a Coke plant at the corner of Fullerton and Narragansett. We used to see it when we went to Riis Park or the Community in the shopping center.

I was reminded of this recently when I bought Pepsi in the city, and was surprised that somewhere along the line, Chicago is charging an additional 3% sales tax on
soda in addition to the 9.5% sales tax. So at one time I was getting a refund on my purchase and now I am paying 12.5% sales tax. Luckily I am within a mile of the suburbs, so just as I do with gas and bottled water, I will make my purchases outside the city and preferably Cook County ,to avoid the "hidden" nickel and diming that the politicians do. I am not crazy enough to go out of my way to save a few cents, I just try to do all my purchases as I go about my daily businness.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/05/2012 12:53PM by Kchi.

Re: Bottle Refunds
Posted by: PKDickman (
Date: December 05, 2012 01:56PM

Cases of Huber beer in returnable quarts, those were the days.

I don't think there was any specific date. The bottlers just stopped as their bottle supply ran out, or their distribution area got to big to be able to get them back.

According to this article:

[url=]End of the line for returnable Coca-Cola bottle[/url]

the last returnable 6.5 oz Cokes came off the line this Oct. in Winona.

Re: Bottle Refunds
Posted by: SJMR (
Date: December 26, 2012 03:50PM

I don't know when they stopped reusing the bottles,but Kchi is so right. My sister would head to our local park early Saturday and Sunday mornings to collect all the beer bottles the teens had left from their night of drinking. They were bigger than the 12oz bottles and she got 5 cents a piece for them. I followed along at a distance to make sure all was well, but if you needed money, she was the one to see.

Re: Bottle Refunds
Posted by: Erie St Danek (
Date: January 03, 2013 12:34PM

I lived right behind Talcott School on Erie Street in the late 50's .... I remember a lady that looked like Olive Oyl that walked the neighborhood looking for empty bottles with two shopping bags in each hand. Always her bags were full. We called her Grandma Bottles. When we called her Grandma Bottles she would set the bags down on the ground and pick up her dress and moon us .... she didn't wear any panties .... and she laughed like hell when she did this and so did we ..... ! We had so much darn fun with her and so did she ....

Re: Bottle Refunds
Posted by: rjmachon (
Date: January 03, 2013 06:01PM

Michigan still have bottle refunds? It is like 10 cents per bottle, can, and plastic bottle and when you return them, you get your refund. This is suppose to keep recyclables out of the trash.

Re: Bottle Refunds
Posted by: Cragin Spring (
Date: November 03, 2014 10:59PM

Mid 1990's is when returnable bottles faded away in grocery stores. Pepsi, Coke, Royal Crown and Canfields were very big on selling 16 ounce returnable bottles in ma & pa stores and chains such as Jewel & Dominick's. Aluminum cans and plastic bottles took over the market. Many soda drivers on Monday would come back to the plant with their truck filled with empty bottles.10 ounce bottles were common for soda machines at gas stations, factories and school cafeterias. But the 10 ounce returnable was phased out around the mid 1980's.
Inside the plant was a bottle sorter that would work 2nd shift and sort the bottles according to their labels. Coke did have a bottling plant on Grand & Narragansett that closed quite a few years ago. Royal Crown bottling plant on 47th Street closed also. Royal Crown in Chicago also bottled Nehi flavors which were in returnable bottles. Canfield's was located on 89th place which closed also. Pepsi had a bottling plant at 1745 North Kolmar Ave. which later became a warehouse and that plant stopped bottling. Bottling moved for Pepsi to 51st & Union. The Kolmar Pepsi Warehouse closed completely around 1996 and they moved to 35th Street east of Ashland.

Re: Bottle Refunds
Posted by: davey7 (
Date: November 05, 2014 05:16PM

I don't remember there ever being bottle refunds in Chicago, but that could have just been our neighborhood.

Re: Bottle Refunds
Posted by: ambrosemario (
Date: November 05, 2014 06:11PM

Up until some point in the late 70's or early to mid 80's, most soda and beer bottle purchases required a 2-cent or 5-cent (quart bottles) deposit. This was to encourage their return so they could be washed and reused by the bottler. It was common practice for kids in our neighborhood to scrounge for a few empty pop bottles, which you would return to the corner store and redeem for some penny candy. Hard to imagine today, but back in the 50's and 60's you could make out pretty well with 10 or 15 cents. The more recent bottle deposits you see in some states, Michigan being the closest to Chicago, are state laws. The purpose is to discourage littering, because once bottlers switched to aluminum cans, plastic and disposable glass, their need to reuse then ended. Hence, a great deal of littering.

Re: Bottle Refunds
Posted by: rjmachon (
Date: November 05, 2014 06:59PM

I can remember collecting bottles for refunds in the mid 1960's. You could buy a 16oz. RC and a package of Suzie Q's for 27 cents. It was hard to return the Old Dutch soda pop bottles because not many stores sold it. I can remember also collecting Hi-C bottles as well.

Re: Bottle Refunds
Posted by: Cragin Spring (
Date: November 05, 2014 11:56PM

I forgot to mention Hi Q. They had many flavors and were bottled by Pepsi. They were 10 ounce returnable bottles and discontinued around 1985.

Re: Bottle Refunds
Posted by: daveg (130.36.62.---)
Date: November 06, 2014 06:59PM

Growing up, bottle refunds got us our, to name a few:

baseball cards
rubber balls for fast pitchin'

Re: Bottle Refunds
Posted by: prusko69 (
Date: January 05, 2015 12:49PM

Yes, there were bottle refunds, at least through the mid 80s. I worked at a Dominicks in 1985 and part of my job was too take all the returned bottles and put them in wooden crates for coke and pepsi to pick up. There was a spot in the back room just for the stacks of bottle crates.

Re: Bottle Refunds
Posted by: gman (
Date: January 05, 2015 12:58PM

Lasser's (in Lincoln Park near DePaul) was one of the last holdouts (for local brands, that is). They closed in the mid-late 80's.

Re: Bottle Refunds
Posted by: tomcat630 (
Date: January 07, 2015 11:35PM

Our local Dominick's would use a marker and tag the bottles, so they wouldn't be 're-returned' on same day.

Re: Bottle Refunds
Posted by: the_mogra (
Date: April 15, 2015 02:19PM

a much earlier post mentioned Huber Beer, and I was still buying them in returnable bottles here in Chicago as late a 10-12 years ago (no kidding). it's my favorite bock brew (nowadays it's been replaced by Shiner bock).

as a young kid I'd return empty soda bottles for deposit to a nearby bottler at the northwest corner of Grand Ave & Hamlin that was there then

Re: Bottle Refunds
Posted by: Kchi (
Date: May 17, 2015 02:19PM

I was listening to a old time radio program of Casey Crime Photographer. The show was sponsored by Anchor Hocking. Within the commercial from 1949 they were advertising the introduction of the new non returnable bottle. I was surprised that the throwaway bottles started that early since we were still returning bottles into the 60's.

Just recently I saw a Coca Cola truck making a delivery to a gas station. The semi had a liftgate and a electric forklift contraption for the driver to make the delivery. I remember a cousin who once worked as a helper for a beer company and 7up who seemed to do the heavy lifting of the cases and returns. He was trying to work his way up to driver, because I believe at the time the drivers pay was based on x amount per case. Nowdays, with disposable bottles and the tools I mentioned above, I assume lot of those jobs are gone. Just another case of innovation outweighing the cost of labor or maybe labor outpricing itself so that it was cheaper to pay for equipment rather than people.

I also have been noticing on the shelfs in some locations glass bottles of Coke and other soda from Mexico or Poland that comes in glass bottles. I would think it would be expensive to ship in unless a local bottler is using the foreign formula and bottling it here in the states.

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 05/17/2015 02:40PM by Kchi.

Re: Bottle Refunds
Posted by: Cragin Spring (
Date: May 18, 2015 02:04AM

Kchi, The soda industry has changed a lot in the last 20 years. In the Chicago area Coke, Pepsi, R.C., Canfield's and 7up always had side loaders with bay doors. Every route had a driver and helper. The helper usually when getting to a store would get the empty bottles, sort them then put them on the truck.The helper when at big chain stores may spend a hour getting all the empty bottles thrown back on the truck.
In 1983 Coca Cola in the Chicago area went on strike for the reason that the company slowly wanted to go to one man trucks and take away the helper. Well the Coke employees lost the strike and slowly routes went to one man. As years past the other big soda companies did also by making routes with just a driver. What your talking about is end loaders. Coke and Pepsi in Chicago came up with a idea. The drivers and routes who had helpers were making commission. Both the drivers and helpers were making a good buck delivering to Jewel, Dominick's, vendors and places like Wrigley Field. So Coke and Pepsi started to deliver to these places with a end loader. The end loader driver was getting paid by the hour and the companies were saving not paying commission anymore. Later the all the soda companies did the same.
From what I remember the helpers were completely eliminated around 2004. If you do see a helper on a route truck now its because the driver has a really busy day and the helper if needed is getting paid hourly. The one man routes that deliver now to smaller stores and businesses are still on commission. Yes all the changes to save a buck. I believe if the returnables came back really strong you may see 2 on a truck again.

Re: Bottle Refunds
Posted by: Kchi (
Date: May 18, 2015 10:07AM

Just based om personal experience, I also assume that a good portion of the business is more heavily weighted to cans. I myself would prefer bottles, but the pricing makes it more economical to buy cans which can be bought for a relatively cheap prices around the holidays. I don't care for 2 liters due to the loss of carbonation.

I am not aware of a big push to return to returnable bottles. You would think the enviromental crowd would be in favor. While the soda companies, markets and consumers benefit in labor costs or lower prices, I wonder if you you factor in all the expenses of picking up and recycling the impact to the economy is probably a wash.

Re: Bottle Refunds
Posted by: Elaine W (192.175.17.---)
Date: May 18, 2015 07:46PM

I recall returnable glass bottles up until sometime in the 1980's, when most soft drink companies went in the direction of plastic bottles, which were not returnable. I can date this roughly for a couple of reasons.
1) Some friends of mine turned me on to seltzer (sparkling water) around 1980 or 1981. These friends lived in Milwaukee at the time so we visited frequently. I know that when I first began buying seltzer I could get it in glass bottles and returned the bottles to the store for the deposit. Within a few years (probably by 1985 or earlier), all I could get was plastic bottles which had no deposit and were not returnable.
2) My M'kee friends moved to Boston in 1984. The first time I visited them was probably 1986, and I remember being pleasantly surprised that Massachusetts had a deposit and returnable bottle system on a wide variety of cans and bottles (this was before there was a big push for recycling).
By the way, one practical difference between glass and plastic is that glass can be sterilized and plastic can't, so returning glass bottles to be cleaned and reused makes sense. Plastic can be recycled (that is, melted down and made into something else) but not refilled and sold as new.

Re: Bottle Refunds
Posted by: Jayg (
Date: May 19, 2015 12:07AM

Dominick's was still selling returnable bottles in 1986, at least the one in Riverside was,I still have a coke bottle that I forgot to return.

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