German beer brewers are familiar with the problem of beer bottle shortages. However, this one is new. “unprecedented”Due to the rising cost of energy, galloping inflation and the conflict in Ukraine, as well as sanctions against Russia, and Belarus, Thursday’s admission by the New York Times was made.
Germans have plenty of beer to choose from, but it’s not enough. The 2003 Berlin law aimed to minimize packaging waste led domestic breweries to sell their beer in reusable plastic bottles. There may be up to four billion bottles currently in circulation – 48 or so for every living German – but the consumers are just letting them stack up on their balconies or in their basements, not going through the trouble of returning them for the eight-euro-cent deposit.
This was a problem in the past. A lag in recycling was the reason for a 2018 summer shortage. This was prior to the conflict in Ukraine and sanctions by the EU against Russia, Belarus and China. However, it occurred before energy prices rose and sharply decreased the supply of glassware.
Stefan Fritsche, deputy chief of the Berlin-Brandenburg Brewers’ Association who hosted the Times reporter at his Klosterbrauerei in Neuzelle, said that his electric bill has gone up 300% over the past year, while gas was up 400%. He also pays a much higher price for barley.
“The price of bottles has exploded,”Fritsche called the issue “the problem”, and he told the paper. “unprecedented.”
According to reports, glass factories in Ukraine are now closed due to fighting. Sanctions are in place “cut off supply chains from Russia and Belarus,”According to the Times, Meanwhile, high energy prices – themselves a secondary consequence of the sanctions – resulted in increased costs of glass-making elsewhere, from Czechia to France. The record breaking price of bottles sourced from them is now between 15 and 20 eurocents per bottle.
German media reported on the imminent shortage in Germany last month. The tabloid Bild declared that the country was facing a severe shortage. “running out of beer bottles.”Deutsche Welle, the state broadcaster, blamed many factors, including trucker shortages and energy costs, but did not mention sanctions.
During the 2018 shortage scare, US public radio highlighted a Romanian immigrant who collected empty bottles from the street for seven euros per shopping cart, and a young German who refused to drink beer from cans – preferred by American exporters – calling it “cheap and a bit trashy.”
For all the Americans’ insistence that cans were more recycling-friendly, canned beer accounted for just 7% of the German market at the time. Another part of the problem is that many breweries have moved away from the standard bottle size and shape, preferring to distinguish their brand by a different design – but meaning that bottles are no longer interchangeable.
Fritsche maintained that beer is plentiful. Germans have already cut back their food and beverage purchases due to record inflation and bottle shortages. The Times reports that retail sales fell 7.7% in April, which is the largest drop since 1994.