In the late 1950s, long before the creation of Earth Day and before the concept of recycling entered the public consciousness, the Colorado Rockies were sprinkled with tin cans. Almost all preserved foods and beverages were packaged this way, and folks out for a drive or a hike would just pitch the empties onto the side of the road to rust.

These cans bothered Bill Coors for many reasons. The litter spoiled the landscape surrounding the Adolph Coors Co. in Golden, the cans left an aftertaste in the beer they brewed, and the tin was heavy, expensive and inefficient as a packaging material. He set about finding a solution.

In 1959, his engineers revealed the seamless, recyclable aluminum can, launching a revolution in the beverage industry and planting a seed of environmentalism in the American mindset.

The Coors company began a program called Cash for Cans, offering one penny for each can (and glass bottle) returned for recycling. By 1966, Coors was honored by the Good Outdoor Manners Association for environmental stewardship, having collected over 13 million cans in the previous year. According to Time magazine, the company had a nearly 85 percent recovery rate.

This sustainability effort, dubbed “Working Together for a Better Environment,” only continued to improve while raising public awareness of reuse and recycle concepts. The Rocky Mountain News, in commemorating the 50-year anniversary of the can, noted that in 1990, MillerCoors became the first company to recycle more cans than it sold into the marketplace. Bill Coors famously said, “Waste is a resource out of place,” which inspired company leadership to unearth new ways to reduce material and energy usage.

Today, the company shreds plastic from its brewing barrels for use in garden and lawn applications. It sells leftover barley malt as animal feed to local farmers. The employees travel across the acres-wide facilities on tricycles. Recently, the company reduced the diameter of aluminum can ends and saved nearly 622 tons of aluminum.

“MillerCoors is committed to  environmental sustainability both inside our breweries and in the communities where our beer is marketed and sold,” said Kim Marotta, Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility for MillerCoors.  “We strive to be a responsible corporate citizen and believe that preserving resources for generations to come, just as Bill Coors did back in the 50’s, is key to growing our business the right way.”