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Apparently packaging from beers, wines and spirits makes up nearly 25% of food packaging waste in the UK. By way of example, a 2007 report from Marks & Spencer states that they use "around 79,000 tonnes of food packaging annually of which 25,000 tonnes is glass, mainly wine bottles, for which recycling schemes exist". The problem is, according to government-funded body WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme), that the majority of wine bottles are made from green glass rather than clear flint glass and there is not enough high value, domestic demand for green glass waste in the UK. So although it is recyclable, it is not being recycled.
To tackle this problem WRAP has launched GlassRite, an initiative to encourage the drinks industry to use lighter weight glass. Wine bottles vary between 300g to 900g and it's not always the most expensive which use the heavy glass. Tesco claim to have reduced their annual glass usage by 2,600 tonnes from one single wine supplier by switching to lighter glass bottles, a 15% saving.
Alternative packaging materials are also appearing such as PET and stand-up pouches, which are said to offer as much as 60% reduction in life cycle CO2 emissions.
WRAP are also encouraging large retailers to ship in bulk and bottle in the UK using recycled green glass. If 10% more wines were shipped in bulk, 50,000 more tonnes of recycled glass would be used. Tesco claim to have saved 4,100 tonnes of carbon emissions by shipping more New World wines in bulk and bottling in lightweight glass in the UK.
There has been a concerted move towards screwcap in the last few years in an effort to maintain wine quality against the incidence of cork taint (generally quoted as affecting 1 in 20 bottles of wine). Aromatic, unoaked whites and rosés for early drinking keep fresher under screwcap. They're a lot easier to take on picnics too! This has put great pressure on the cork industry to research the causes for cork taint and improve cork quality.
Now, just as screwcaps are becoming more acceptable, we find that replacing corks with screwcaps might not be such a smart move for the environment. Cork is a totally green product. It is 100% natural, re-useable and recyclable. It is biodegradable and there is no wastage in the production process. Cork oak trees are not felled during harvest - the bark grows back over a 9-12 year period making cork a constant and renewable product. But we're starting to use a lot less.
The cork forests of the Western Mediterranean cover 2.7 million hectares and the region is one of the world's top 25 biodiversity hotspots. Over 100,000 people are employed in the forests, which rely on the wine trade for about 70% of their economic value. The World Wildlife Fund and the RSPB want us to continue to use cork stoppers, as without rapid action there could be a massive exodus from the cork oak landscapes and significant impact on the landscape, communities and economies of the area.
According to tests conducted by Cairn Environment for Oeneo Bouchage in France, screwcaps produce the largest carbon footprint giving off over 10kg of CO2 per tonne compared to 2.5kg for corks.
Our view is that screwcaps make sense from a quality perspective for less expensive, higher volume, unoaked, aromatic whites and rosés. For oaked reds and whites and wines that benefit from ageing, the best closure is a long, high grade cork.
Wine cartons can now be made from recycled and recyclable cardboard. Our Ethical Fine Wines cartons are made from 100% recycled and recyclable board. They can even be scrunched up to use in domestic compost. See the link below for more information on composting.
Internal loose packaging
To cushion bottles during transit we use 100% recycled polystyrene chips. They are reusable, recyclable, non-toxic and CFC free. We could have used biodegradable chips made from corn starch but these go mushy if there is a breakage. In our hampers we use shredded office paper waste.
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