Nineteenth century bottle recycling

In colonial Australia bottles were valuable things. Before 1872 next to no glass was produced in Australia until Felton and Grimwade, better known as a pharmaceutical manufacturer, established a bottle works at Spotswood in Melbourne. Incidentally, the Spotswood glassworks is still with us, although under different ownership.

It is also interesting that as well as medicines, Felton and Grimwade was also a pharmaceutical bottle importer in the early days of the company, something that probably inspired them to start local manufacture.

Even then bottles were made by formed in moulds and handblown, which made bottles expensive, and worth recycling – just quite how valuable they were was something that I hadn’t realised until a recent article on nineteenth century beer bottles on the Christchurch Uncovered archaeology blog.

So I did a little search for ‘bottles wanted’ on Trove:

And it’s quite interesting – as Australia becomes more and more developed there’s an increasing demand for bottles, peaking in the decade 1910-1919, perhaps because of wartime shortages – we see a secondary peak in 1940-49, perhaps for the same reason.

So even though Felton and Grimwade had started making bottles in 1872, this had little or no impact on demand for second hand bottles – there was a continuimg and increasing demand for second hand bottles throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth century, which is, of course, why quite a few nineteenth and early twentieth century bottles have statements like ‘this bottle always remains the property of Smith and & Co‘ cast into them, as a deterrent to unsanctioned reuse.

The reuse of bottle may also be a factor in explaining why so many of the old bottles for sale, where they are provenanced, come from old mining camps and sheep stations, where it wasn’t worth collecting them for reuse …

About dgm

Former IT professional, previously a digital archiving and repository person, ex research psychologist, blogger, twitterer, and amateur classical medieval and nineteenth century historian ...
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3 Responses to Nineteenth century bottle recycling

  1. Pingback: Libraries … | stuff 'n other stuff

  2. Pingback: What was thrown away and didn’t survive | stuff 'n other stuff

  3. dgm says:

    And as late as 1952 companies were asserting ownership of their bottles – – suggesting that bottles were considered a valuable resource

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