The first week of October marked the end of an era for Coca Cola as the company rolled its last deposit-return bottle off an assembly line at the U.S.-based Coca-Cola Bottling Co. of Winona, Minnesota.
After 80 years in production, the iconic 6.5 ounce bottles were the last returnable Coke bottles in the U.S. Customers paid a 20-cent deposit on each bottle that was refunded on the return of the bottle, but only in four counties, two in Minnesota and two in Wisconsin.
In a statement, Coca-Cola of Winona general manager and VP, LeRoy Telstad, said current and anticipated manufacturing standards go beyond the design of the bottler's vintage beverage line. Making the required upgrades were not a sound business decision, he said. After the current inventory is depleted, the company will no longer be able to offer the returnable bottles.
The bottling company has not produced new bottles since 1990.
Although unconfirmed, the bottling facility will likely be switching to plastic bottles like the rest of the Coca-Cola plants in the U.S.
The company’s 10-ounce and 12-ounce returnable bottles were discontinued earlier in 2012.
The plant, which employs 14 people full time, will stay open. No staffing cuts have been announced.
A final commemorative run of about 5,900 bottles has gone on sale from the plant, priced at $20 each. Proceeds go towards the expansion of local pedestrian and cycle paths.
In 2005, Washington, D.C. woman Linda Taylor drove more than 2,000 miles just to get a bottle from the Winona bottling facility.
Atlanta-based Coca Cola still sells its product in recyclable 8-ounce glass bottles.