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‘Reaching for the stars’: the future of the recycled glass wine bottle

Porto Protocol hosted those driving the movement for recyclable glass bottles last week. db gets the scoop on what’s next for the recycled wine bottle.

'Reaching for the stars': the future of the recycled glass wine bottle

“With sustainability, it’s only when you’re radical that you make an impact,” says Muriel Chatel, managing director at Sustainable Wine Solutions.

The Porto Protocol ‘Climate in a Bottle’ talk, which took place on 17 March, was hosted by Diana Snowden Seysses, of Domaine Dujac and Snowden Vineyards.

Snowden Seysses was joined by a panel of speakers all developing an approach to making wine packaging more sustainable, including Melissa Saunders MW, CEO of Communal brands and director of wine for Good Goods; Lise Rollan from Oé For Good; Bernard Grafe, CEO and owner of Grafé Lecocq; and Chatel.

Wine bottles are responsible for 50-70% of the carbon emissions of most wineries. As a result, the panelists are each endeavouring to make a change to the industry through the development of recyclable bottles and closed-system packaging solutions.

Working across four different regions – the US, France, Belgium and the UK – they all aim to “make the bottle part of the solution” to sustainability in wine, according to Chatel.

Re-education and consumer bias is one of the key issues in need of tackling.

“Education is an important piece to this puzzle,” says Saunders, who began looking into sustainable packaging as part of her MW research paper.

“We are not going to span our fingers and be in reusables,” she adds, but making consumers aware of the disadvantages of glass will trigger progress.

recycled glass bottle

The misconception that recycling glass has no impact on the planet continues to haunt the industry.

And when it comes to re-educating consumers, understanding the steps to recycling their packaging also acts as a barrier.

“If people need to get their reading glasses before they understand they need o bring [the bottle] back, they won’t bring it back,” Chatel notes.

One challenge to brands looking into sustainable packaging and recyclable bottles is the cost.

“Economics can be a barrier,” Saunders comments.

According to the Grafé Lecocq owner, companies offering recycled alternatives are “not helped by legislation and tax incentives”, and there is minimal cost difference between bottles going in the bin and those being recycled.

As such, the lack of cash incentives makes the concept of the recycled wine bottle less appealing to brands.

For Grafe, the circular model is successful within the local market in Belgium, helped by its small scale.

The same goes for Sustainable Wine Solutions. With a focus on the Parisian on-trade, the company sees an 80% return rate for bottles from restaurants, compared with closer to 50% returns from DTC sales.

Scaling up in larger regions can present a challenge. For Oé in France, developing a national programme for recycled bottles is still a “work in progress”.

A lack of national standardisation and regulation is the brand’s “biggest setback”, Rollan comments.

With no standardised size and weight for glass wine bottles, brands looking to sustainable packaging solutions must build from the ground up, a task which often feels like “reaching for the stars,” Saunders says.

But, as Chalet asks: “Do we want to feel good about ourselves or do we want to make an impact?”

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