Q: I recently heard that Anheuser-Busch InBev expanded its production of aluminum bottles. Is this some sort of mandate by the Environmental Protection Agency?
G.B., of Dupo
A: I find it funny to think that 50 years ago, my family was more “green” in some respects than many are today, even though we would have had no idea what the concept meant.
When we bought soda, we went to the Vess plant on North Illinois Street in Belleville (now Metro Shooting Supplies) to buy a case of 24 glass bottles. Of course, we returned the case of empties so they could be washed and reused — and we could get back our deposit.
I walked to Tillo’s Milk House at 18th and South Belt where I would dutifully return our empty glass jug for a full gallon of Millstadt Creamery moojuice from kindly Tillo Agne, who usually gave me a Tootsie Roll Pop for my effort. My family drank water from our filterless faucets, and, in the summer, we’d all chug straight from the half-gallon bottle chilling in the fridge.
And when Dad wanted Falstaff, he would buy it in one of those old-fashioned cardboard cases with the foldover lids covering the 24 brown, reusable bottles. Why, I even remember earning a nickel or dime at homecomings for each case of empty bottles I’d pick up.
I know that using returnable bottles today might be too costly and impractical for companies to keep up with the country’s thirsty consumers. So we open, gulp and pitch mountains of aluminum cans, plastic bottles and disposable glass. Hopefully, a goodly percentage makes it to recyclers, but many wind up in landfills.
So if the EPA were going to shake things up with A-B InBev, they undoubtedly would order the company to stop with the aluminum already and go back to returnable bottles. That’s why those aluminum bottles have nothing to do with the government and everything to do with the company’s bottom line. It seems the aluminum bottle has become the preferred container of lager lovers, so A-B InBev is satisfying their thirst.
They have to make sure they keep on top of these fads. Even though A-B still controls 46.5 percent of the beer market, obviously tops in the U.S., both Budweiser and Bud Light continued to lose market share in 2015. To keep drawing fans to their cold, frosty ones, the corporate brewmeisters are putting at least part of their focus on their containers. Why? Because A-B saw a 30 percent jump in demand last year for its beer in aluminum bottles, which it first used in 2013.
As a result, Anheuser-Busch in St. Louis, the U.S. arm of A-B InBev, recently completed a $160 million expansion of its Metal Container Corp. plant in Arnold, Mo. With the 100,000-square-foot addition, the plant increased its work force by a third to 300 and doubled its production to 1 billion such bottles a year with two 12-hour shifts per day. The expansion was needed to produce the 16-ounce aluminum bottles that are proving increasingly popular at Busch Stadium.
It’s not only St. Louis. Earlier this month, the company began a new $175 million addition to its Metal Container plant in Jacksonville, Fla. Seems that people all over love the added advantage of the bottle: Unlike a pop-top can, it’s resealable.
But my family may have had another plus going for it: In 2005, Iron City Beer in Pittsburgh claimed in its advertising that aluminum bottles kept beer colder 50 minutes longer than a typical glass bottle. But in a fact-check experiment at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pa., researchers found that while aluminum bottles certainly chilled faster, they also lost their cool faster at room temperature.
Which would have made my dad one happy suds fan.
Q: With our government in such financial crisis, how much will it cost to change our paper money? I have read that your fingerprint may serve as the money system in the future. Would it not be best to simply pay for everything with a chipped credit card?
Richard Indermark, of Collinsville
A: With consumer credit data being so easily stolen by hackers, the thought of everyone paying everything through a debit or credit card likely is too unnerving for some. Just this week, I saw folks at a local movie theater ticket window absolutely flummoxed when their computer would not spit out any tickets. Remember the old days when they’d punch a button and one of those tiny preprinted tickets would pop out?
For those who like their old-fashioned paper currency, I have good news: If the government can be believed, it’s probably not going to cost any more Jacksons, Hamilton or Lincolns to produce the new bills. According to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, the government regularly redesigns bills and introduces new ones into circulation, so this is just part of that process. In fact, the major costs lie in the security and anticounterfeiting technology that must be monitored and updated anyway.
If you want to save some money, you might join the fight to scrap a couple of our fairly worthless coins. In 2014, the government lost $105 million on the production of nickels and pennies because it cost 9.4 cents to mint a 5-cent nickel and 1.8 cents for a penny. Yet when the suggestion is made to end production, many suddenly turn into Tevye from “Fiddler on the Roof” and yell, “No! Tradition!” (And, of course, stores couldn’t advertise things at $99.99.)
Along with the coins, you’ll see a new $10 bill by 2020. If you’re interested, the $1 bill accounts for 30 percent of all bills in circulation followed by the $100 (28 percent and climbing), the $20 (23 percent), the $5 (7 percent) and the $10 (5 percent).
In geographical terms, what’s the opposite of oriental?
Answer to Wednesday’s trivia: During season four of “The Flintstones” (Oct. 3, 1963), Barney and Betty Rubble discovered an infant named Bamm-Bamm on their doorstep and fell in love with the child. They tried to adopt him, but found the Welfare Bureau had promised the child to wealthy Pronto Berger. Making matters worse, Berger was represented by the Bedrock lawyer who had never lost a case: Perry Masonry. But the show ended happily when Berger’s wife found she was pregnant, opening the door for Bamm-Bamm to become a Rubble. By the way, voicemaster Alan Reed Sr. really did ad-lib Fred Flintstone’s cry of “yabba dabba doo,” according to pop culture authority Arlen Schumer. The script called for Reed to merely say “yahoo,” but Reed told series creators William Hanna and Joseph Barbera that his mother was fond of the popular Brylcreem slogan “a little dab’ll do ya.” From that came Fred’s memorable exclamation.