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New alliance to accelerate uptake of packaging alternatives for wine

Can wine be packaged in something other than glass? Undoubtedly. Wine is now available in aluminium cans, boxes (lined with plastic bags) and even PET plastic. 

Producers are changing formats in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – glass being responsible for around a third of the footprint of a bottle of wine. 

The new Alternative Packaging Alliance (APA) has just been launched in the US to accelerate innovation in this space.

Founding members include Juliet Wine, Communal Brands, Really Good Boxed Wine, Giovese Family Wines, Nomadica, Ami Ami and Tablas Creek.

The alliance said it is aiming to “redefine the narrative around alternative packaging as the cornerstone of comprehensive sustainability efforts in wine”. The APA also said it “shares a mission to accelerate adoption of alternatives to single-use glass packaging for the sake of the planet”. 

Glass bottles and their transport are the largest contributor to wine’s carbon footprint. Environmentally responsible packaging alternatives exist that reduce impact immediately but require broader acceptance by trade and consumers.

Trials have been taking place in the UK, led by The Wine Society, showing consumer acceptance of alternatives to glass is stronger than expected. 

Bag-in-box (BiB) options and flat bottles made from recycled PET plastic were widely adopted by shoppers. The Society has estimated that moving 20% of its volume to BiB, 10% to cans and 10% to PET bottles, as well as lightweighting of glass and use of 80% recycled content, could cut its scope 3 emissions by 16.5%.

The perception that consumers associate heavy glass bottles with higher wine quality has also been overstated, according to researchconducted by the Sustainable Wine Roundtable. “[…] there are no convincing arguments against the use of light weight bottles for wine,” noted a research paper that accompanied a new agreement to reduce the average weight of 750ml still wine bottles in the ranges of SWR members from 550g to less than 420g by the end of 2026. Laithwaites, Lidl GB, Waitrose and The Wine Society have all signed up to the target.

Melissa Monti Saunders, founder member of the APA and CEO of Communal Brands, said: “We believe packaging should be evaluated for its functionality and environmental credentials rather than as a quality metric. Why irrationally assume products packaged in alternatives to single-use glass must be lower calibre?” she added. 

The APA will roll out several initiatives aimed at fostering awareness and adoption of alternative wine packaging in the course of the next 12 months. The organisation will also launch publicly-available resources including educational materials on the environmental impacts of glass bottles and the benefits of alternative packaging.

Research by Eunomia, a consultancy, for Zero Waste Europe shows that PET and aluminium offer “more compelling” options compared to glass “in single-use applications” for drinks. 

“Given that glass is highly suitable for reuse, adopting a system that promotes reuse is likely to significantly decrease overall material demand,” said Eunomia. “Therefore, it would be informative to further examine decarbonisation pathways for beverage container materials while accounting for reuse.” 

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