Sun | Jan 20, 2019

Making money by collecting bottles

Published:Saturday | January 13, 2018 | 12:00 AM

Finding a second source of income wasn't just a 'nice-to-do' for bus driver Courtney Ewen. With a family to support, seizing a viable entrepreneurial opportunity was a 'must-do'. Through conversations with his clients, Ewen found a solution that, luckily for him, bridged the gap between his immediate economic need and his passion for nature.

"I've always been concerned about the environment, so when I heard about the chance to earn extra money by collecting bottles for Red Stripe, to do this as a business, it was a definite yes for me," said Ewen. The Portmore resident, who had previously been collecting bottles informally, was approached by the beer company in the summer to become one of a small group of independent bottle collectors.

"Red Stripe uses returnable glass as part of a broader sustainable approach to doing business," said Rochelle Clarke, business development manager. "It reduces cost and leaves less of an impact on the environment, but only if those bottles come back after our consumers have finished enjoying our products."

Formalised independent bottle collectors is the brewer's latest initiative to get back its glass from the trade. The business provides a source of income for the entrepreneurs who see it as a 'legitimate side hustle'.

For Ewen, some of his clients complained about a pile-up of beer bottles, so the opportunity readily presented itself.

"I immediately jumped at the chance to relieve them of the burden and at the same time make some money," explained Ewen. He further shared that some persons stored the bottles to sell during the Christmas season or back to school period to help offset expenses, noting that this was a challenge.


... Bottle hoarding drove collection


The hoarding of bottles was one of the major factors that drove the beer company to implement a robust yearlong returnable packaging material project to encourage consumers to consistently return their bottles throughout the year.

"We now have a structured system which includes these independent contractors who help us to bring back the glass. It works for them, it works for the consumers, and it works for us," asserted Clarke.

Ewen is applauding the company for its initiative, which he sees as giving credibility to bottle collectors.

"We have contracts, business cards, and Red Stripe branded shirts to help with marketing," explained Ewen, pointing to the cards which also provide a bottle return hotline and website. "People are cautious of strangers when approached about business ventures and things like collections, so these marketing tools help me to have easier conversations and buy-in from householders."


Recruitment drive


The company is now in a recruitment drive to increase the pool of collectors.

"We now have a small number of contractors, but we're looking to expand that group so that we can have collectors right across the country," said Clarke. "Interested entrepreneurs and consumers with bottles to be returned can call our hotline at 1-888-429-5225 for more information on bottle return options."

With a lifespan of four to five years, returnable glass bottles could realise savings of up to US$2 million for the manufacturer in 2018 alone. It is savings that the beer company plans to re-invest in its long-term sustainability plans to improve efficiencies and productivity.