The London Wine Fair 2023 (LWF23) has joined forces with the Porto Protocol and Sustainable Wine Solutions to collect new data by analysing the estimated 30k empty bottles consumed at the fair. The data sample will be used to inform reusable wine bottle schemes, in an effort to reduce carbon emissions. Reusing bottles is not new but is currently underutilised. It is also a pragmatic way to engage wine producers and consumers in moves towards sustainable and circular economy based solutions.
The emissions generated from packaging have been identified as the largest and wine professionals have been looking at alternatives and improvements. This was also discussed in my interview with winemaker and climate scientist, Dr Greg Jones in the Alentejo WASP series, last year.
Data drives big ideas for a better world
Marta Mendonça from The Porto Protocol says that the data currently does not exist and that this new LWF23 study of an estimated 30,000 bottles from around the world will provide a huge insight into how reusable bottle schemes can be scaled up.
Marta says, “We want to identify what type of bottles, how many shapes, how many colours, how many labels we are able to take off. How many broke? How man are actually reusable? And then reuse the bottles in the end.”
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By analysing bottles from around the world the scheme aims to identify what are commonalities that make bottles easy to reuse and what are the differentiators that discount them from further use. Bottles that are too heavy or have embossing, or a wash resistant glue, maybe unusable, however, it is hoped that if a wide range fall into easily defined categories, reusability becomes viable and scalable. Perhaps for some wine producers, it will guide their packaging decisions to be part of future reusable bottle schemes.
Listen to the full Porto Protocol Interview:
Recycling falling short
The UK has a recycling rate of 70% which is high but the other 30% percentage is also huge and goes to landfill or is incinerated. If wine transportation is to drastically reduce its carbon impact on the environment, then shipping wine in larger containers for bottling at the destination, and coupling the offering with a reusable scheme, is an attractive win-win option.
Wine began being imported to Britain in casks in the Middle Ages, where it was then bottled and sold directly from the merchant. It was after the phylloxera epidemic in Europe that devastated vineyards, when importing bottles became more attractive due to being easier to transport and less likely to spoil.
Although recycling is inherently a good process, the problems arising when recycling enormous quantities of glass collected nationwide, include: contamination from other waste items like food, lack of recycling infrastructure, oversupply of glass that leads to a glut. Also, the cost of transport and recycling can be more than the recycled product making it not economically viable.
Reusable schemes have a future role to play
Marta emphasises that reusable bottling schemes are not the only solution but are just one approach that may be attractive to producers, sellers and consumers. A Spanish study called ReWine, carried out in Spain a few years ago, looked at the life-cycle analysis of bottles and found that reusable schemes are financially and environmentally sustainable within a certain perimeter. Marta says, “The normal characteristics of a bottle can simply be reused, whereas if you have a plastic bottle, a PET, it cannot be reused.”
Looking forward from 2023, Cristina Crava, also at the Porto Protocol says that “… in the years from now the norm will be that everything is reused. So we won’t have to keep using more resources to build up new materials where we already have so much available to use.”
Scientists are warning that climate impacts are accelerating and we are risking crossing tipping point thresholds of irreversibility that will decimate agriculture and supply chains. Additions of greenhouse gas emissions are at record highs in 2023 but are expected to plateau at ~40 billion tonnes per annum, driving an increase in extreme and dangerous weather trends. Policies to reduce atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases are expected to be imposed across swathes of industry and society. Adjusting our value judgements to align with these challenges is a duty that befalls us all.
The report is expected to be published 3 months following the London Wine Fair 2023 (#LWF23). The Porto Protocol will be on stand DZ14, within The Discovery Zone. They will host “The Climate Bottle of the Future is Reusable” seminar on the Centre Stage, Wednesday, 17th May at midday.