Businessman turns to bottle returns to stay afloat


Businessman turns to bottle returns to stay afloat

Thursday, October 15, 2020

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AMID a push to remain viable, one St Andrew wholesaler has made returning glass bottles a solid second stream of income for his business.

Lincoln Lewis, 44, a husband and father of two who started LGOC Wholesale 14 years ago, says he has been able to provide for his family off the strength of his bottle returns.

After being laid off from his job several years ago, necessity being the mother of invention, Lewis refused to sit idly by while he and his family suffered, choosing instead to channel his business sense into becoming an established wholesaler.

Having run a profitable business for many years, and like many other small businesses, LGOC Wholesale has not escaped the economic uncertainty brought on by the onset of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“The pandemic has changed the business a lot, and things have got a little bit slow; a lot of people not working right now so less people can afford to do as much shopping,” he explained.

While navigating the challenge of trying to make ends meet, the businessman decided to take a closer look at other opportunities.

“I've been in the bottle business for quite some time and I know that Red Stripe has been buying back bottles from the very beginning, because back in the day I used to return bottles one [by] one for cash,” he said.

Lewis is now prioritising bottle returns, selling more Red Stripe products, and encouraging his customers to return them to his wholesale. With returns of up to 500 crates per week, Lewis has been generating income that is helping to keep his business afloat amid the pandemic.

The businessman is also an advocate for the environmental benefit of bottle returns. Recycling bottles means fewer of them will end up in landfills, and less resources will be required to dispose of that waste, which will ultimately mean lower pollution.

“This bottle ting ah do wonders fi di environment, and it really ah help get some ah di garbage outta di place, which will mek Jamaica look much better and cleaner. Plus mi nuh know how tings wudda work if mi neva ah return dem bokkle yah, fi tell yuh di truth.

“Mi feel good fi know seh me ah do sumn fi improve di environment while making some money and providing for my family,” he said.

The returning of bottles is a two-fold benefit that the beer manufacturer has been promoting.

As part of the HEINEKEN Company, Red Stripe has always championed sustainability. Through its Red-Cycling campaign, the beer company has intensified its efforts to encourage customers and consumers to return their bottles for their benefit and that of the environment.

“At Red Stripe, our operations have always been intrinsically motivated by our profound responsibility to the people in the communities in which we serve, and how it can be leveraged to create significant transformation. Our role as nation builders takes on added significance, particularly in times when the shadow of social and economic hardship looms so largely over the nation.

“Our primary objective, as a company, has always been to encourage Jamaicans like Mr Lewis to create lasting change that will create both personal and shared benefits of a better future,” said Dianne Ashton Smith, Red Stripe's head of corporate affairs.

As an incentive, Red Stripe doubled the refund amount for glass bottles at the start of 2019. Consumers get $20 for each bottle, and $600 for a full crate of empty bottles within its portfolio of products, including Red Stripe, Red Stripe flavours, Heineken, Smirnoff Ice, Dragon, Guinness, and Malta.

With no intention of easing up anytime soon, Lewis is encouraging other Jamaicans to consider bottle returns as a viable business. For him, Red-Cycling has turned trash into treasure.

“Bottles right now is my life man, trust mi. And if mi can do it, then anybody can do it!”

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