Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Recycling bottles

Two days ago, after I posted on plastics and littering, memories from fellow blogger and New Zealander, Pete from Hamilton collecting glass bottles for a cash refund, prompted this post. I must have been born at the same era as Pete because I did the same.

In the 60s, in Borneo, there were basically two types of soft drinks. The local produced soft drink which we  called "Native" brand, and the imported brand, Coca cola. We didn't have soft drinks often, or rather only during Chinese New year and once in a while when we have a big celebration. Drinking soft drink especially coca cola was a big deal. Even the Water Engineer's colleagues who are now university professors reminsce fondly how they slowly nurse their bottle of cola.

We would wash our empties and wait for the the old man, "rag and bone man" who comes in his special trishaw to recycle the bottles. He rings a bell and we kids would rush to him with our bottles. The coca cola bottles were worth twice the money of the "Native" brand. Other glass bottles were worth nothing. The catch was, Coca Cola demanded their customers to return their bottles. I think they kept a retainer to make sure all the bottles were returned to their stores. So if we sold a coca cola bottle to  the rag and bottle man, we never heard the end from Mum. 

"The Rag and bone man pays you 2 cents, and I have to forfeit 10 cents to the coca cola company."

That was the first time I heard the unpleasantness of the MNC Coca cola.

In the mid 1970s, when I was in Canada, I flatted with L. I recall the Coca cola branch in Sarawak made to our Marketing text book. My friend P said that our Coca cola won a prize as the best cola ever made. In deed, our Cola was different. It was more fizzy than the ones we drank in US and Canada. Apparently Coca Cola allowed their branches to make the cola to suit local taste. Any way, L who's family ran a successful coffee shop told us that:

"If you have more empties, the Cola company takes them away without giving you any money, it sees it as helping you to clear your rubbish, but if you don't return enough, they forfeit you." 

Fast forward to mid 1990s, I took my teenaged daughters back to Borneo to visit my second sister Elizabeth. Her husband Kalang was the principal of a school. Next door, the woman ran a canteen for the school. There we saw crates and crates of Cola bottles. I asked her what they were doing gathering dust.

"The Cola company stopped making Cola in glass bottles, nobody wants them."

My Daughter Deborah asked if she could have a bottle for souvenir,

"Take the whole lot for all I care."

When Deborah took one bottle to Singapore, her friend Oooh Aahed. 

"Why didn't you bring more?"

In mid 2000, we moved back to New Zealand, Deborah has lost the novelty of that cola bottle which meant more to me than to her. It broke my heart to drop it in the recycling bin.


That very day, I posted on Plastics, I saw these little cars advertising for Cola. The bottle has the same shape as the old bottle. But I guess, it is a plastic bottle.


Bitsa Lit said...

we still have glass bottles in new brunswick and i think pei as well. There are plastics as well but the small, thick glass ones are nice...they stay colder longer too.

alicesg said...

Very interesting. When I was young, we too sell those F&N glass bottles to the rag and bone man. Now all these bottles are made of plastic not glass.