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Explained: Why Germany is facing a beer bottle shortage

Firstpost logo Firstpost 10-06-2022 FP Explainers
Explained: Why Germany is facing a beer bottle shortage © Provided by Firstpost Explained: Why Germany is facing a beer bottle shortage

The Ukraine war and the COVID-19 pandemic have sent ripple effects throughout the world – causing rise in prices and shortages of fries in Japan and chicken in Singapore, forcing countries to resort to protectionism over food, and tripping up supply chains.

But for the booze-loving nation of Germany, a new threat is on the horizon – a shortage of beer bottles.

Let’s take a look at why this is happening and why brewers are begging customers to bring back their empty bottles.

What’s causing the problem?

First, let’s understand the problem.

As per The New York Times, the problem is not so much a lack of bottles, but the lack of bottles in circulation.

Around 4 billion returnable glass bottles from roughly 1,500 breweries – 48 for every man woman and child –  are in circulation. Customers pay a surcharge of 8 euro cents on each bottle, and get that money back when it is returned.

But that leaves a loophole in the system: getting people to return their bottles.

As per the newspaper, dragging a crate — or several — of empty glass bottles back to a store can be a hassle, even if it means getting back the deposit fee. Thus many tend to let them  sit in the basements of their homes or on the balconies of their apartments until they run out of space or spare cash.

"The climate-friendly reusable system in Germany is unique in the world. Unfortunately, it is also uniquely expensive at present," Holger Eichele of the German Brewers' Federation told Business Insider.

Another aspect of the problem is that the use of cans is far less common in Germany and many breweries use customised bottles that are tricky to replace, as per the BBC.

Which leads us another problem – the increasing cost of new glass bottles.

The Ukraine war has halted production of glass factories in that country and sanctions have cut off supply chains from Russia and Belarus, as per the newspaper.

In a statement sent to Business Insider Eichele said the shortages were "indirectly related" to the conflict in Ukraine.

"It is a fact that unfortunately several glass factories in Ukraine have been destroyed by Russian attacks or had to close down and therefore can no longer deliver to Western Europe. This has increased the overall demand for glass products and glass containers in Germany as well," the statement added.

Meanwhile, the price of bottles in the Czech Republic, France or even Germany has touched record prices of 15 to 20 euro cents.

That’s due to the hike in energy prices which is causing the price of glass bottle production to increase, a glass industry spokesperson told Bild.

Energy prices have risen by 500% compared to the previous year, a spokeswoman for the Federal Glass Industry Association told German newspaper Bild.

“The current energy price crisis poses major challenges for the energy-intensive glass industry,” she said.

As per BBC, brewers are having to pay 80 per cent more for new glass bottles than they did a year ago. The cost of beer is also rising.

As a result, he said the cost of new glass bottles had nearly doubled in the last year.

Eichele, speaking to BBC, also blamed a lack of lorry drivers for making it harder to maintain supply chains.

Eichele said the best thing Germans could do was to return glass bottles to retailers as quickly as possible, advising consumers not to "hoard empties in the basement"

With inputs from agencies

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