Reasons to change
Reasons to BIB, can, keg and beyond!
Kirsty Tinkler - founder & Director Weino BIB
I give a talk at our store in Dalston explaining natural wine, from organic farming to low-intervention winemaking. I've discovered that people have a romantic vision of wine and expect that all wine is made in a relatively natural way. I now start every talk by lifting the veil on what mass-produced conventional wine actually is. In the same way, people have misconceptions about glass bottles. So it is necessary to begin by explaining the benefits of thinking beyond single use glass packaging.
Glass ~ breaking with convention
"Wine should come in a glass bottle, right? Actually, wrong if wine drinkers want to do their bit for the planet's resources and environment." - Jancis Robertson (OBE, ComMA, MW)
I started doing bag-in-box pop-ups in 2015 on a gut instinct of the ecological benefits of the format. Perhaps my time working in a foundry using furnaces to melt a material into shapes allowed me to understand the carbon implications of glass. Statistics have been widely circulated in the last few years to educate everyone on the true cost of glass. Glass is 100 times more carbon heavy than BIB. While aluminium has a melting point of 660 degrees celsius, glass melts at 1700 degrees celsius. This heat required negates the possibility of using green electricity in its production; natural gas instead is the main energy source.
80 - 90% of wine's carbon footprint comes from packaging and distribution. Glass is made in furnaces at extremely high temperatures. Producing it causes 22 million tonnes of CO2 in Europe and 95 million tonnes worldwide each year. Since 1970, CO2 emissions have increased by about 90%, with emissions from fossil fuel combustion and industrial processes contributing about 78%
The other fossil fuel contributing to wine's carbon footprint is diesel. If we remove the weight and shape of glass, 2.5 times more wine can be shipped for a similar amount of diesel. 27% of the world's total carbon emissions come from transportation. Currently, 45% of UK wine consumption is shipped in bladders within shipping containers and bottled locally. 90% of wine is consumed within two weeks of purchase. Approximately 3% of UK consumption is put into BIB, compared to 60% in Scandinavian countries, which are actively pushing sustainable formats.
So what holds us back from making the change now, the industry, education and assumed customer perception, take your pick. I fell in love with natural wine for its character, its purity and also for its ethics. One of the beauties of natural wine is that farming practices and winemaking look after the planet, our bodies and palettes. Sadly, however, natural wine producers are currently lagging behind in their approach to packaging, tending towards particularly heavy glass. Canada is in the process of banning the import of heavy glass bottles altogether.
The ideal for wines future is a landscape where the 90% of wines that are made to be drunk young, are put into alternative formats. Allowing space for glass to exist where it is most needed, but with new bench marks that focus on the sustainability of bottles, such as weight, labels, and closures, that are most efficient regarding energy and waste.
As for the alternatives. Cans production is lower in energy use and they are ideally 100% recyclable. BIB is mostly recyclable materials and is the bench mark for lower carbon footprint, Keykegs fall into the similar bracket but are made from much heavier plastic. Our ongoing problem with plastic is that it takes so long to break down, and the sheer mass being produced is causing havoc in the environment. However, plastic profusion points to one of its redeeming factors. Plastic is cheap, which the energy crisis now has us understanding means it needs less energy to produce. Plastic also holds carbon rather than omitting it; it is this chemical equation that leaves it on the planet for such a long time. New technology is being developed to produce plastic with zero carbon emissions, which would effectively make it a carbon capturer, a minus net zero product.
Reable bottles and kegs is an alternative that can easily replace the current systems. Logistically it takes real vision, but is an exciting area for growth.
'We are all responsible for the impression that good wine comes in bottles... We must do more to send the message that wines in alternative packaging can be cool, too.' - Jancis Robertson.
To our own practice with Weino Imports, we have our own brand of pouch wine and in an effort to add cool and prove that these formats don't have to be cheap wine, they can even be natural. After some searching, we found a pouch that is recyclable no.7, sadly still not readily recyclable. The taps are recycled, and slowly the industry is moving away from black taps as they struggle to show up on recycling conveyor belts. The truth is that there is still technology needed. Still, the benefits of solving our immediate global warming problems caused by carbon emissions surely must be where we lend our focus. I am very proud that we, as a small business, are doing something to change perceptions, which in turn will create growth in a sector that can impact the planet's future. Losing wine, I would like to think, is not negotiable, so we need to find ways to bring our industry to be net zero.
Bill Gates, How To Avoid A Climate Catastrophe, 2021 Penguin books