Bottleworks
Project info

The first glass container was created around 1500 BC and it was a revelation.

Since then our dependence on glass to preserve, move and dispense things as dissimilar as cleaning products, beverages and medicines has grown exponentially. Today, millions of new glass containers are created worldwide each day with Americans contributing over 11 million tons of glass to the municipal solid waste stream in 2012 alone, only 28 percent of which was recovered for recycling.

150 years ago most bottled beverages were consumed on-site in taverns and restaurants where they were hand-filled and hand-capped one at a time.

World War II shifted ownership of glass bottles to the consumer as hundreds of local bottlers gave way to a handful of national operations who took advantage of industry-wide advances in mass production and mechanized bottling to market beverages for consumption at home.

No Deposit. No Return.

It didn’t take long for the American landscape to be transformed by a tsunami of litter as society struggled with the question of whose responsibility the deluge of empty bottles belonged to.

Oregon was the first to implement a bottle law in 1972 requiring a deposit of 5 cents on most bottles which, despite the rising cost of living, is where it remains today in Vermont, Guam, California, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, Maine, Michigan and New York, the only other states in the U.S. to follow suit.

The bottles from which these images were made are from sources as wide and varied as their contents once were. The bottle of 1890’s Blood Purifier was excavated from a one hundred and fifty year old privy outside of New York City. The 2012 bottle of Becker Dry Riesling once held the wine my wife and I shared on our wedding night. Some belonged to collectors. Other were culled from the refuse of private dumps before finding their way to me.

The aim of this on-going project is to create a gap between bottles and their contents which have become fused together over time by the force of habit. The circularity of the images makes them a fitting symbol for the importance of keeping glass bottles out of landfills and firmly in the world where they reduce the amount of energy needed to create new bottles and help decouple resources from economic growth which is a proven role model to a circular economy.