Reading some comments on the question comparing various materials from which bottles are made, the thought arose: indeed, what prevents large scale collection and reuse of glass tare?
When I was growing up in the Soviet Union, there was a standard 0.5l bottle which was used nationwide for anything from lemonade to beer:
One could turn in those bottles for cash refund in any store, and later they would be cleaned (steam cleaning, perhaps?) and reused with new tags. Likewise, bottles and jars for dairy (milk, sour cream, quarks etc.) were all standard and could be returned to a local dairy shop or a larger market where they would be cleaned and reused, sealed by colour-coded aluminium foil, much like Yoplait yoghurt containers.
Obviously, centrally planned and operated Soviet economy allowed for streamlined collection and return: shops would send the bottles back to regional distributor, which, in turn, would relay them back to manufacturers. In the market economy with fragmented distribution of retailers and bottlers, and with countless variations on bottle shape in lieu of preposterous “brand-recognition” concept (if everyone is “unique” I still cannot tell them apart), organizing such concerted effort would be undoubtedly difficult.
However, European Green Dot system, seems to yield some results, even in the face of packaging industry opposition it initially endured. And so there are ways to reuse glass tare by returning it all the way to the manufacturer from the consumer.
So, is the European system successful, can it be replicated and are there better alternatives? Given the push back by special interests, is it viable to promote standardised containers to simplify the logistics? Are there other concerns, such as health or enforcement of food safety, or if the manufacturer has to disinfect the new bottles anyway, does it make any difference?