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Waitrose switches wine packaging to cut carbon 

Waitrose has announced plans to move most of its small wine formats from glass bottles into cans – a move that the grocer says will reduce carbon emissions and save resources.

“Aluminium cans weigh significantly less than glass and create less than half the amount of CO2 than the equivalent single-use glass bottle,” explained Barry Dick, MW, beer, wine and spirit bulk sourcing manager at Waitrose. “Cans can also be recycled an infinite number of times,” he added.

Wine and spirits businesses have been scoping out different formats for their beverages in the face of soaring prices for glass packaging. 

The costs of packaging recycling notes have also escalated with some companies reporting tenfold rises which threaten to wipe out profits, according to a recent report in Financial Times. The Wine and Spirits Trade Association, the Scotch Whisky Association and the British Beer and Pub Association have all reportedly (and repeatedly) written to Defra calling for urgent reforms. Changes to the system, as part of the new extended producer responsibility regime, have been delayed.

Glass can also come with a hefty carbon footprint, which has led to many brands looking at alternatives, including paper, boxes, pouches and cans. There is little or no perceivable difference in quality between these formats fore wine drunk within a few months of purchase. 

Wine Traders for Alternative Formats, an alliance of wine companies and writers, recently published an open letter to James Cartlidge, exchequer secretary to the Treasury, calling for reduced reliance on glass bottles and the introduction of “consumer tax incentives for carbon-friendly alternative packaging”. The alliance claimed that switching from glass to alternative formats could save as much as 750,000 tonnes of CO2e every year in the UK alone.

Drinks companies also have to manage the first deposit return scheme this year. Scotland’s DRS will go live in August but concerns over costs and divergence between schemes in different parts of the UK persist. Both the Scottish and Welsh DRS include glass bottles but England and Northern Ireland will exclude glass and focus on plastic bottles.