Reclining with a cold, refreshing beer after one of your long workdays would be so much more gratifying if you were also, say, helping fight poverty and consumer waste, wouldn’t it?
Designers working for Heineken in the 1960s were over 50 years ahead of their time with this one — they designed a bottle that could be upcycled (a term of course unknown to them) into a building material. And yet this ingenious little model of socially responsible packaging, pictured above, has yet to hit the mass market.
It’s said that brewer Alfred Heineken paid a visit to the Caribbean in the early 60s, during which time he became concerned over two facets of life there: beaches scattered with empty bottles for lack of a good disposal system and a need for affordable building material. So upon his return to the Netherlands, he hired a Dutch architect, N. John Habraken, to design a “brick that holds beer,” as he called it, in two sizes: 350 and 500mm. The brewery produced 100,000 of these “World Bottles,” or WOBOs, in 1963 — enough to make 100 ten-foot-by-ten-foot huts. Unfortunately, the bottles never really went to good use. Two structures do exist, but both are located on the Heineken estate in Noordwijk, outside of Amsterdam, quite far from the impoverished sands of the Caribbean.
It’s an interesting sidenote in the history of environmentalism. Maybe empty beer bottles wouldn’t prove to be an efficient building material on a large scale after all, but think of the ways it could change the way bottles are recycled, were this design utilized today.
The brick bottles could, conceivably, be sent to the same recycling facilities as regular, rotund glass bottles, where they might be sorted from the rest. WOBOs could then be shipped back to a Heineken facility or nonprofit organization for upcycling projects. Should other alcoholic beverage providers set aside branding differences for a common goal and adopt a similar bottle design, there would be even more building material available. And the huts could be used by needy communities all over the world, as the moniker “World Bottle” originally implied.
Food (or drink!) for thought!