Heineken World Bottle?
March 12, 2011, 10:06 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Alfred Heineken had an epiphany while on a world tour of the Heineken factories. While on the Caribbean island of Curacao in 1960, Heineken saw many bottles littering the beach due to the fact that the island had no means of returning the bottles to the bottling plants from which they originated. He was also concerned with the lack of affordable building materials and the inadequate living conditions plaguing Curacao’s lower-class. Envisioning a solution for these problems, he found a dutch architect John Habraken to design what he called “a brick that holds beer.”

For the next few years, the Heineken WOBO went through a design process. Some of the early designs were of interlocking and self-aligning bottles. The idea sprung from the thought that the need for mortar would add complexity and expense to the bottle wall’s simplicity and affordability. Some designs proved to be effective building materials but too heavy and slow-forming to be economically produced. Other designs were rejected by Heineken based on aesthetic preferences. In the end, the bottle that was selected was a compromise between the previous designs.

The bottle was designed to be interlocking, laid horizontally and bonded with cement mortar with a silicon additive. A 10 ft x 10 ft shack would take approximately 1,000 bottles to build. In 1963, 100,000 WOBO’s were produced in two sizes, 350 and 500 mm. This size difference was necessary in order to bond the bottles when building a wall, in the same way as a half brick is necessary when building with bricks.Unfortunately most of them are destroyed and no bottles are left. They have become very rare and, for some, a collectors item.

The thought of a corporation taking the initiative to create bottles for their products that can interlock to create something usable is incredible.  I applaud Heineken and his thoughts for a reusable / sustainable product.  Not only could the public enjoy a nice, refreshing beverage, but they can then use the bottles to create much needed structures.  If companies such as PepsiCo could follow Heineken’s lead, the possibilities could be endless.


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