Bulk imports could beat wine bottle waste

By staff reporter

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Wine, Bottle

Importing wine to Britain in bulk and bottling it in lighter glass
would save money and help the environment, says a recycling agency,
which has signed up supermarkets and wine firms to trial the idea.

The commercial trials, involving Britain's two biggest supermarkets, Tesco and Asda, and wine firm Constellation Brands among others, will assess the feasibility of bottling more wine in the UK using lightweight bottles.

The project aims to cut glass waste in the UK by 20,000 tonnes, according to the government-funded Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP), which will help oversee the trials.

Britain's growing love for wine yet unsuitable climate for planting vines has made it the largest wine importer in the world in recent years. Around 80 per cent, or 800m litres, of this wine arrives already bottled, placing extra strain on the environment and on supply chain profit margins.

"Despite the concerns that some overseas suppliers may have, the UK bottling industry has plenty of capacity to both produce and fill bottles,"​ said Andy Dawe, glass technology manager at WRAP.

"Our research shows that an additional 10 per cent switch will mean 55,000 tonnes less glass imported and a rise in demand for recycled green glass in the UK of 50,000 tonnes; a combined improvement of 105,000 tonnes per year."

WRAP claimed that importing wine in bulk could shave 40 per cent off shipping costs and help the environment by using less fuel.

Rising popularity of New World wines from Australia, California and South America mean bottles must travel long distances to reach the UK.

Britain's Wine and Spirits Trade Association said it supported the WRAP project and "feels it is important for producers to investigate whether they can help make a difference in reducing glass waste if the economic case for doing so makes sense"​.

Scenario testing on a major Australian wine brand showed bulk importing could save the firm £212,600 per year and cut carbon emissions equivalent to taking 348 cars off the road, WRAP said.

The group has also teamed up with British Glass to develop lighter wine bottles, potentially saving on raw material costs. A similar project with Coors Brewers in Britain recently made Grolsch beer bottles 13 per cent lighter, saving 4,500 tonnes of glass waste per year.

It remained unclear how many wine firms would support more bulk imports to Britain.

Labels declaring wine has been bottled 'on site' are used by some wineries as a marketing tool. In reality this can mean specially fitted lorries owned by outside companies rolling up at wineries to bottle the wine. But, the use of the label is considered to denote quality and traceability, and can also connect the consumer to the winery.

Some argue too that transporting wine in bulk over long distances, instead of bottling it in the country of origin, may increase the risk of spoilage or reduce quality.

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