Wine bottles are changing. Wine lovers are being asked to accept many changes in the name of helping the environment. Some wineries are touting wine in a box as being a greener alternative. Others are switching to plastic corks or screw tops as more environmentally friendly alternatives to natural cork.
The Boisset Family Estates in France used plastic bottles for all their exports of this year’s Beaujolais Nouveau to the U.S. About 30,000 cases of the wine in plastic bottles with a screw top were shipped for the November release.
What are the benefits of the plastic wine bottles?
For the wine maker, the shipping costs can be up to 33% less. That’s a significant savings that can be passed along to consumers.
Lighter bottles mean less fuel used in the shipping process. This is where the environmental benefits come in. The plastic bottles weigh 1/8thas much as glass bottles, which usually weigh about 14 ounces. Less fuel used to ship these lighter bottles means a smaller carbon footprint during the shipping process.
So what do you think about wine in a plastic bottle? My first reaction is, “Oh, no! How tacky.” But as an environmentalist, I know that changes need to happen all over the place, even with my beloved wine. Still, I wonder if this is the right change.
The plastic bottles are recyclable. They are made from PET, which is the plastic with the #1 on it that you’ll find on the bottom of the bottle. This is one of the types of plastic that most curbside recycling programs accept, and it is easy to find recycling centers that will take it.
However, when plastic bottles get recycled, they don’t get recycled into plastic bottles. The plastic loses some integrity in the recycling process. They get recycled into things such as plastic lumber or carpet padding. It takes all new resources to make more plastic bottles.
Glass bottles, on the other hand, can be recycled into new glass bottles over and over without loosing integrity.
So while plastic bottles may win in the environmental category during the shipping process, do they win in the creation process? Perhaps not.
If you’re not convinced that plastic is the greener alternative, but you still want to be more environmentally responsible with your wine choices, consider these options.
- Buy from local wineries. Buy directly from the winery or from a wine store that stocks local wines. If you’re taking the wine right from the winery to your home in your car, the shipping concerns are taken away. If the wine has only been shipped a very short distance from the winery to the store, again, the shipping concerns are few.
- Buy organic or biodynamic wines. Wineries can find all sorts of ways to make the packaging and shipping of a wine greener. If the wine in the packaging has been made with grapes that were grown in conventional ways with chemical fertilizers, fungicides and pesticides, the wine is still leaving a significant negative impact on the earth.