Sleeman testing reusable beer cases

Building on its positioning as a brewer of all-natural ales and lagers, Sleeman Brewing and Malting is testing its environment-friendly, 24-bottle plastic beer cases in the greater Toronto area.Sleeman is packing its Cream Ale in the reuseable and recyclable cases in...

Building on its positioning as a brewer of all-natural ales and lagers, Sleeman Brewing and Malting is testing its environment-friendly, 24-bottle plastic beer cases in the greater Toronto area.

Sleeman is packing its Cream Ale in the reuseable and recyclable cases in a test that began last year in Guelph and Kitchener in southwestern Ontario.

Other areas on hold

John Sleeman, president of Guelph-based Sleeman Brewing, said at a recent Toronto press conference to announce the cases the company has not yet decided if at some point the plastic cases will be rolled out elsewhere in the province or featured in company marketing and advertising.

The Toronto test began Sept. 12 and runs until Oct. 8.

Paul Smith, a spokesman for Labatt Breweries of Canada in Toronto, says the company has been looking at plastic cases for ‘a few years,’ but adds there is always been an economic argument not to use them.

Labatt is not ruling out plastic cases, but, at this point, Smith says the brewer is considering other options.

Freda Colbourne, a Molson Breweries spokeswoman, says the brewery is looking at the issue of plastic beer cases but has not completed its evaluations.

The grey Sleeman Brewing cases are made by TRI-R Packaging Systems in Mississauga, Ont.

The usual cardboard beer case packaging fits over the top of the cases.

Steve Kidd, vice-president of sales and marketing at tri-r, says the plastic cases can be used up to 50 times before recycling, and can reduce waste by at least 70%.

There is a $2.10 deposit on each case.

Sleeman says each case costs about $4 to make so if the cases are not returned to Brewers Retail outlets – Ontario’s beer retailing monopoly – his company could be hurt.

Will return cases

However, Sleeman says experience suggests consumers will return the cases.

Kidd says every effort has been made to ensure the cases cannot be used to store cds, tapes or other items, a fate which befalls many of the plastic crates produced to store milk.

Ontario’s Ministry of Environment and Energy provided financial and technical support for the project.

Sleeman Brewing produces 2.5 million cases of beer a year and is Ontario’s fourth ranked brewer.

The company was started in 1834 near St. Catharines, Ont. by John H. Sleeman, a brewer and maltster from England.