Beer and soft drink companies are doing bottle redesigns left and right lately. Like so many things, these overhauls seem to be motivated by brand appeal (aka money). But you kind of can't blame manufacturers for wanting to, you know, sell more of their product or whatever. Free market! Anyway. It wasn't always like this. For about a minute in the 1960s, Heineken tried to continue making money while doing good at the same time. And it was a great idea.
The Heineken World Bottle (WOBO) was dreamed up by then-CEO "Freddy" Heineken, who decided that rubbish wouldn't end up on beaches (he was in the southern Caribbean at the time) if it could be repurposed as building materials in houses. He realised that if Heineken bottles could be reused as bricks, they might actually make a difference for affordable housing.
The architect John Habraken went on to design a bottle that would actually be a reasonably safe brick alternative. The WOBOs could stack horizontally, because the bottoms had an indentation that fitted with the necks of the other bottles, and the sides had patterns of bumps that interlocked as well.
The bottles weren't perfect, but in Heineken's test run of 100,000 (the amount needed to build about 10 small houses) they did the job. The bottles were never mass-produced though. As Mark Wilson points out on Co.Design:
I can’t help but wonder if the WOBO was simply a product ahead of its time . . . We’ve grown to expect corporate social responsibility, and as consumers, we’ll go out of our way to subsidise it.
It could be kind of great to have a house made of beer bottles. Especially for people who really just need any house at all. OK crowdfunders, deploy! [Co.Design]