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Wine industry working towards getting greener

Recyclability and environmentally friendly seem to be the wine industry’s current buzzwords, as companies search for ways to make their products greener. Sainsbury’s, for instance, is just about to trial two of its own-label wines in PET bottles. A New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and an Australian Rosé will be bottled here rather than at source and sold in traditionally shaped PET wine bottles, which are not only lightweight and recyclable but also designed to reduce the impact of carbon emissions.

The project is supported by the government-funded Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP), which has been encouraging the wine sector to lightweight wine bottles sold in the UK as part of its GlassRite programme.

Weight is an important issue in making wine containers more environmentally friendly. Sainsbury’s new PET container weighs just 54g compared to 500g for an average glass wine bottle. However, since the vast majority of the wine industry is unlikely to turn its back on glass, most work has involved looking at making glass bottles lighter. Quinn Glass, for example, has, with the support of WRAP, developed one of the lightest wine bottles in the UK, weighing 360g.

The difference lightweighting can make becomes clear when you look at the potential savings using an example. Take a South African white wine brand moving to a bottle lightweighted from 545g to 354g. According to James Ross Consulting, likely savings per million bottles would be over £62,000 in material costs, over 190 tonnes in glass savings, more than 140,000 tonnes in carbon savings and over 150,000 kilowatt hours.

Another issue in helping wine companies become greener is the colour of bottles – and, literally, green bottles are greener. Andy Dawe, WRAP’s Glass Technology Manager told ThirtyFifty, ‘Up to 100 per cent of green glass can be recycled, and in the UK there is the availability to get close to that. But only 50 - 60 per cent of clear glass can be recycled and manufacturers make more clear glass in the UK. Also, over half of what we discard is green glass from wine bottles coming into the UK, and you can’t use green glass for manufacturing clear glass.’

What GlassRite is trying to achieve, therefore, is more bulk wine importing and then bottling in the UK, preferably in green bottles that have been lightweighted. A WRAP report confirms that CO2 emissions can be reduced significantly by doing this. The study showed that by converting wine from shipping in bottles to bulk importation CO2 emissions can be reduced by 30 – 40 per cent. It also showed that lighter glass bottles can achieve reductions of up to 30 per cent.

However, even greater reductions are possible by combining these strategies, says the study. For instance, combining the benefits of bulk shipping and bottling in the UK into the lightest 300g bottles can result in 375g CO2 savings for every 75cl bottle of wine.

And while we are on the subject, what about blue bottles? Apparently, these are fine environmentally, according to Andy, because they can be recycled in with the green. ‘And there is only a small amount of blue anyway,’ he said.