You know those questions that you have that never seem quite important enough to find the answers out to? The ones where you think, “I’ve always wondered why…” but never take the time to find out why.

Here’s one of mine. I’ve always wondered why we recycle glass bottles and jars and turn them into new bottles and jars instead of just reusing the jars after a good sterilization.

Apparently, it can be done; it’s just that nobody does it. That’s about to change, and it’s starting with wine bottles. I love it. is reporting that Wine Bottle Recycling, a new company based in Sonoma, California, is taking a lesson from the Europeans. They will be cleaning, sterilizing and reusing wine bottles that would otherwise end up going through the glass recycling process or end up in landfills.

Wine Bottle Recycling is the idea of Bruce Stephens, a home wine maker, who had one of those middle of the night epiphanies. He did some research and found out some interesting and disheartening statistics about used wine bottles.

  • Seven out of 10 wine bottles in the United States end up in landfill.
  • The U.S. is one of the few nations that does not collect and reuse their bottles on a large scale.
  • In Europe, most wine bottles are used an average eight times before they are discarded.
  • 60 percent of a wine bottle’s carbon footprint comes from the creation of the bottle.
  • The energy it requires to melt the glass in the recycling process, along with the amount of broken glass that doesn’t get recycled, makes the recycling of glass bottles a lot less environmentally friendly than many people think it is.
Stephens and his partners have taken a look at companies that have made an effort to offer this type of service before but have ultimately failed. They believe that they have a plan in place that will avoid the problems the other companies faced.

They also have something on their side that companies a decade ago didn’t have – the widespread green movement. Ten years ago, many wineries wouldn’t have seen advertising that their wines came in reused bottles as a positive marking tool. Now they know that consumers are drawn to that sort of sustainable effort.

Although the company hasn’t fully launched yet, Wine Bottle Recycling already has the interest of wineries such as Husch, Folio, Frey, Kendall-Jackson, Parducci, and Sutter Home.

I really hope that Wine Bottle Recycling is wildly successful, and that others will take a lesson from Stephens and his partners just like Wine Bottle Recycling is taking a lesson from the Europeans. 

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

Doing it like the Europeans do it
Europeans sterilize and reuse wine bottles. Will Americans embrace the practice?