Harking back to the days when it paid to recycle your glass bottles

Making glass bottles.
Making glass bottles.

We all thought we’d seen the last of the vinyl LP, but against all the odds, sales are steadily rising again.

And what about glass bottles? Surely their days were numbered following the introduction of plastic products?

Reader John Lightfoot has his own thoughts on the matter, as revealed in this nostalgic blog.

He writes: “It’s been a tradition in the Lightfoot family, throughout my 75 years, that we have a copy of the local paper delivered every evening.

“When I was born, in 1943, my parents wanted to keep up with war news and also local births, deaths and marriages announcements.

“After the war ended they still wanted to know who had been hatched (born), matched (married) and dispatched (died), as we still do in my family.

“For those of us who have not yet ventured into the world of social media, the Shields Gazette is our only source of such information.

“When you get to my age, of course, it’s the deaths that I read with added interest. Is there anyone I know? Anyone I went to school with? More importantly ... what is the average age at which people are dying and how far away am I from it?.

“OK, that is a somewhat macabre introduction to get to the point about how the older generation were born into rationing of all kinds.

“Food and clothing would have been the two that most of us remember, with food and sweets being the ones of greatest importance to us kids.

“It’s something allied to this that I am talking about here – milk was delivered in bottles.

“If you wanted two pints and didn’t leave two empty pint bottles outside for the milkman to collect when he delivered the milk, he would charge you one penny extra for every missing bottle when he collected his money at the weekend.

“The penny was a deposit because milk bottles were returnable, to be cleaned and used again. Similarly with lemonade and other ‘pop’ bottles, which were taken to the shop and handed over so you were not charged a deposit for a new bottle.

“My dad told me he could even ‘pay’ to get into the cinema with washed out jam jars when he was child!

“As a kid, if you found an empty pop bottle you could take it to the shop and claim the deposit, which was always handed over. These days it is called ‘recycling’.

“And guess what? We never saw or heard of bottled water. We got first-class pure cold water out of a tap – lovely. In South Shields, it was flavoured with a smidgens of fluoride, so we all had great teeth as well.

“Rationing ended in 1953 but returnable bottles were still around for another five years or so after that.

“I mention this because I read somewhere that the powers-that-be are considering how to reduce the amount of plastic we dump and water bottles are a target.

“I always was dismayed when I came across a bottle of water that been bottled in one country and then flown half way round the world so that someone, who was probably sitting within spitting distance of a water tap, could drink it. Definitely not good for the environment.

“But, and it’s a big but, what would be the consequences of banning water sold in plastic bottles?

“On the positive side, every year there would be some millions of plastic bottles not produced that then have to be disposed of and lots of greenhouse gasses not pumped into the atmosphere by transport trucks.

On the negative side there would be hundreds, possibly thousands of bottling plants put out of business with huge job losses.

“Did you know that one recycled plastic bottle can save enough energy to power a 60 watt light bulb for three hours or that every tonne of recycled glass saves 150 litres of oil and 315 kilogrammes of CO2 emissions? Well that’s what they reckon.

“It looks like we could be returning to the olden days of returnable glass bottles.”

What do you think?