Wine Packing & Sustainability: A Common Language

Across the sustainability continuum there are actions that rank higher on the eco-friendly scale and other actions that rank lower. It is a fact that some actions will help us more than others and we can use science to figure it out.

Photo: Courtesy of Stock Vault

To properly assess a wine packing’s impact requires us to look at the product’s whole life cycle. Pointing only to pieces of a particular solution is flawed. It is no wonder everyone is confused.

To bring clarity to the discussion we need to use similar indicators and measure the results. “As the saying goes, what gets measured, gets done”.

Those who have ever listened to the great bottle debate know. It starts out gently and soon dissolves into a debate on which solution is the better alternative. “Use lighter bottles they cry…it is better for the environment”, while others cry “use PET bottles…it is better for the environment” while still others cry “no, it is aluminum cans or flat bottles or Tetra Paks”, etc., etc., The only consensus being achieved is the notion that something needs to be done.

Image by Christine Sponchia

What indicators should we be using for measurement?

  • Production (How is it made? Does it use raw materials? How much energy is expended to manufacture it?)
  • Number of Uses (Is it a single use or multi-use item?)
  • Recyclability (How easy is it to recycle, what are the recycle rates?)
  • Location of Recycle Facilities (Local, National, International)
  • Mode of Transport (Bulk, Boat, Train, Plane, Truck) From producer to consumer.

By assigning a number to each of the indicators we now have a systematic, way of assessing the impact of a particular method of packaging. The only debate that will remain is where a solution might fall on the scale.

Let’s see how it works. Generally, the lower the number assigned the better the action is for the environment. For example, if the packaging can be used multiple times it would rate lower than something that can only be used once. If it can be 100% recycled it would receive a lower number than one that can only be partially recycled and it would receive the highest number if it can not be recycled at all. Each solution can be individualized to a particular location. (e.g. if there are low recycle rates the number would be higher)

Each indicator is defined and applied in a similar fashion. (Email me for the full matrix)

The following are scenarios use British Columbia, Canada as the location.

1. Glass Bottle Reuse (Assumption – the bottle will be used 10 times)

Production – Extreme (High-4 (high impact)) , Number of Uses (High – 1 (low impact)) , Recyclability (High – 1 (low impact)), Recycle Facilities (Local – 1 (low impact)) , Recycle Rates (High -1 (low impact)) , Mode of Transport (Local bottle supply, cork closures, local & national distribution, Truck – 2 (medium impact))

Total Score: 9

2. Lighter Bottles

Production – Extreme (4) , Number of Uses (Low – 3) Potential to reuse within a specific weight range or breakage will occur , Recyclability (High – 1), Recycle Facilities (Local – 1) , Recycle Rates (High -1) , Mode of Transport (Boat, truck, international bottle supply, metal closures, product distribution – 3 )

Total Score: 13

3. Aluminum Cans

Production – Extreme (4) , Number of Uses (Low – 3) , Recyclability (High – 1), Recycle Facilities (Local – 1) , Recycle Rates (High -1) , Mode of Transport (Local, National, International, Truck – 2)

Total Score: 12

The wine sector is disparate, what is needed is a common language to support progression over time. While a small market share may go to the aluminum can or the tetra pak, the glass bottle is not going anywhere globally very soon. What is needed is a strategic plan to move the sector towards reducing GHG packaging solutions that will have a measurable impact.

~Trina Plamondon is a business innovator and Founder of Boutèy. Boutèy‘s mission is to reduce the amount of virgin glass bottles being manufactured, by making old ways, new again. Find out more at

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