While enjoying a nice, yet expensive, cold drink in an internet café, we found an interesting fact in our copy of the Lonely Planet guidebook: All soft drinks in Zimbabwe are sold in glass bottles only. Well, we actually have seen cans here, but definitely most sodas come in bottles. Believe it or not, these glass bottles are worth far more than the drink itself- more than most people are willing to pay. So, if you want to quench your thirst with a cold bottle of soda in Zimbabwe - you must first provide an empty in exchange for your new bottle - or at least pay a 50 cent deposit (which you'll get back when you return the empty bottle). This rule also applies to the people selling the soft drink. When a merchant wants to get some sodas - she or he must either buy new bottles for the drinks, or turn in their empties in exchange.
The plus side of what may seem like a hassle is that this system of 100% recycling greatly limits litter and waste. Also, the work of manufacturing and cleaning bottles adds to the economy by creating employment and income.
Despite the popularity of this system, in 1994, Zimbabwe's government considered allowing the import of beverages in aluminum cans. In nearby Botswana, aluminum cans have been introduced to replace glass. There, the streets and fields are now littered with empty cans. Back in Zimbabwe, the protest from the glass bottle manufacturers and environmentalists kept the glass monopoly in place. Well, sort of, since you can find cans here now.
If it kept our streets clean - would you be willing to pay a deposit for your bottle of soda?
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