Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Eco-Friendly Alternatives to Wine Bottles

In last week’s blog on wine sustainability, there were some numbers that concerned me.  Over 300-million cases of wine are purchased each year.  While that’s great for the wine industry in terms of wine sales, those cases account for over 3.5 billion wine bottles; with only 30% of those empty bottles ever recycled. That means a lot of wine bottles end up in the landfills.

So what are some of the newer options available for wine packaging instead of using the tried and true glass bottle?Several exist – and one of the newest is a wine bottle made from paper.

GreenBottle, a UK-based company, signed a deal in 2012 with independent wine supplier, Kingsland Wines to produce the first paper wine bottle.  The bottle is paper on the outside and lined inside with a foil pouch similar to the foil bladder wine boxes have.  When emptied, the paper can be recycled or composted and the liner can be recycled.

The eco-friendly bottle would weigh in at 1.94 ounces compared to a 750ml glass bottle, which weighs almost 18 ounces empty.  That means energy and carbon savings during manufacturing and shipping. And the price is equivalent to that of a glass bottle.

According to British inventor Martin Myerscough, the paper wine bottle is for wine that people will “buy and drink,” those selling for less than $10 a bottle.  The shelf life for the paper wine bottle is between 9 to 12 months. 

Besides the green impact, wine chilled in the paper bottles stays cooler for longer on the table, than wine chilled in glass bottles.  UK grocers expressed an interest in the product and the British public expected to see it on store shelves by last fall. GreenBottle did not reply as to why the delay.

Tetra Pak is another eco-option to the glass bottle. Tetra Pak is similar to a wine box but more like a milk carton.  Made primarily from paper, 92% less packaging is used in this carton container than in a glass bottle to deliver the same amount of wine. 
Tetra Pak use about 5% of the energy for production that a glass bottle does and has 5% of the CO2 footprint.

Besides being environmentally friendly, Tetra Pak is more cost effective than glass; the square-ish shapes are easier to stack on store shelves, and more portable for the consumer.  The containers are made mainly from paper, a renewable resource, and are lighter in weight than glass. This means less fuel and fewer emissions when shipping.

According to the company, it would take 52 semi-trailers to transport 1 million empty wine bottles.  It would take only 2 semi-trailers to transport 1 million Tetra Pak wine cartons.

Tetra Pak wine cartons are in use in the U.S., Europe, Canada, Africa, Asia and South America. Wines that are packaged in Tetra Pak containers include Bandit, French Rabbit, Yellow+Blue, Bota Box, and Vendange.

To find out if Tetra Pak containers or other cartons are recyclable in your community, visit

The wine pouch offers another eco-choice.  Made from plastic, the wine pouch is easy to carry, with a handle as part of the design.  The pouch is 20 times as light as a glass bottle and uses about 20% of the energy during production that a glass bottle does.

The wine pouch is great for those wines you buy and drink often, offering a minimum shelf live of 9 months before opening and up to one month after.

AstraPouch of South Africa was developed as a wine glass packaging alternative.  The wine pouches are flexible, stand up on the shelf and hold the equivalent of two 750ml glass bottles.

According to AstraPouch, one truckload of empty pouches is equal to 14 truckloads of empty glass bottles. AstraPouch is recyclable and currently in use in South Africa, Australia, the U.S. and the UK.

Wines sold in pouches include the Climber by Clif Family Winery, Bud Naked, Eco Vino, and Glenor.

Stack Wines of Newport Beach, California has a ‘green’ approach totally outside the box, or pouch.  Their VinoWear stacked containers are packaged in a shrink sleeve.  The sleeve zips apart to reveal four 187ml stackers – stemless wine ‘glasses.’ Snap the glasses apart and peel off the foil for a go-anywhere glass of wine.

The glasses are made from a high quality plastic that is lightweight and shatterproof, giving each container the look and feel of glass with the practicality of plastic.

Instead of a case (12 bottles) of wine bottles, Stack Wines offers twelve stacks packaged in a case box.  Both the box and the individual wine ‘glasses’ can be recycled.

Other green bottle options include PET wine bottles, boxed wines, bag-in-box (BIB) wines, even mini barrels like Red Truck Wines offers.

Of course, the only way any of these green alternatives will be truly successful is if the wine consumer will accept them.  While the Boomers and Gen Xers have some interest in sustainability, it may be the Millennials that decide what we drink our wines from in the future.

Paper rosés anyone?

~ Joy