Macedonian Supermarket Beer: There’s an Unusual Bottle Deposit System

Macedonian Supermarket Beer: There’s an Unusual Bottle Deposit System

Last night a bought some Macedonian beer from the supermarket and discovered there’s a bottle deposit system. Not for all beers though. It depends on the brand.

I normally buy beer in cans because you can crush them so they take up less room in the trash. However, the supermarket had discounted the prices of some of the local Macedonian bottled beers so I chose to buy bottles instead.

The most popular local beer appears to be Скопско (Skopsco). At least here in Skopje. Most of the bars appear to sell it in preference to the other local beers. I’ve drunk Skopsko several times since I arrived in Macedonia. It’s a good beer, but I wanted to try some of the other local offerings so I chose three bottles of Zlaten Dab and three bottles of Кралu Марко (Krali Marku).

When I arrived at the checkout, the girl scanned the three bottles of Krali Marku without any problems. Then she held up one of the bottles of Zlaten Dab and asked me something. I don’t speak Macedonian so I had no idea what she said and it turned out she did not speak any English or Spanish so it was impossible for us to communicate.

Fortunately, the lady in front of me spoke English and she told me the girl wanted to know if I had any bottles to return. I said I didn’t. She also explained there is a deposit payable on certain bottles. I’d happened to pick one of the brands where this is the case.

I was curious about how the system worked and presumed it must be similar to the German Pfand system. It’s not.

With the German Pfand system, you pay a deposit on certain plastic bottles. To get your money back you feed the bottles into a pfand machine and it shoots out a ticket you can redeem at the checkout. The Macedonian glass bottle deposit system is nothing like this.

The lady told me you have to bring your empty glass bottles back to the supermarket and give them to the checkout personnel.

This seems very strange to me. What do the checkout staff do? Stand the bottles near their feet? I have no idea because I’ve yet to encounter anyone returning glass bottles and I’m not returning mine. I’ve already put them in the trash. I’m usually big on recycling, but the idea of pushing my empties around in my shopping trolley and then stacking them on the belt in front of my shopping seems like too much trouble. They’ll get recycled anyway. The local scavengers go through the trash containers regularly and pull out the things they can use.

When I examined my receipt, the deposit was 5 MKD (€0.08) per bottle. If there is a symbol that specifies which bottles have a deposit, I can’t find it. All six bottles had standard symbols that showed they could be recycled, but nothing else. There was no deposit for the bottles of Krali Marku even though they are recyclable too.

So, if you ever buy bottles of beer from a Macedonian supermarket, or local store, and the person at the checkout waves the bottles at you and says something you cannot understand, you’ve probably picked a brand where there’s a deposit to pay for the bottle.

The strange thing is, both brands I bought are produced at the same brewery (Prilepska Pivarnica). Go figure!

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