Which Is Greener, Wine Bottle or Box? Neither.


Typical green imagery for tetra pak wine

In Ontario, Canada, the government-owned Liquor stores have been pushing Tetra Paks as eco-packaging, claiming a much lower carbon footprint in manufacture and transport than the traditional glass bottle. They even claim that they are recycled, although I suspect they are just going through the motions; you don't get much value out of pulping seven layers of plastic and paper. I called it greenwash, but after Jenna found a life-cycle analysis showing that tetra-paks were better than new glass, I thought the issue was settled.

That is, until TreeHugger emeritus Ruben Anderson gave me a slap upside the head with his article in the Tyee, " New Wine in Old Bottles", pointing out that it is just like the paper or plastic issue: the correct green answer is that neither new glass or tetrapak is green, reuse and refilling is.

In Canada we all drink our beer in refilled bottles, nobody has a problem with that. So why not our wine? in Europe, they do.

Ruben writes "French wine bottles average eight refills, but let's temporarily forget that that magical place exists. The Husch family vineyards in California used to refill bottles, which they purchased from a bottle washer called Encore! (The exclamation point is, how you say, sic?)."

He then goes on a glorious rant that I will copy in full, because it is too good to edit:

"While looking for wine in refilled bottles I had the misfortune to see one of those shrill displays of wine in Tetra Paks; this crap is being flogged as a "Green Solution." It's junk like this that drives me to the liquor store in the first place. Tetra Paks are here to save us because they weigh less, so less climate-changing diesel fuel is required to lug them across the ocean from Australia. Dear God, where to start?

First, even if you can get the drunkards off their lazy asses to join the mere quarter of the North American population that recycles, few places recycle Tetra Paks. Second, the places that say they recycle Tetra Paks are liars. What does "re" mean? It means again. Can a Tetra Pak be made into another Tetra Pak? No. Tetra Paks are seven incomprehensibly thin layers of paper, plastic and aluminum. The poor suckers who try to recycle them use giant blenders to mush the paper pulp off the plastic and metal, then they need to separate the plastic from the metal. What idiot thought this would be a better idea than washing a bottle and refilling it?

But the biggest problem is actually the same problem -- jackasses. When did it become okay to destroy the climate and kill 50-90 per cent of living species so we could drink imported wine? How did it become possible for us to think we could have whatever we wanted wherever we wanted it? Do you really want to try to look your children in the eye and explain that they have to eat jellyfish gumbo because you couldn't resist that lovely imported shiraz?

Mark my words, the first North American winery to start marketing mismatched, reused bottles is going to turn a lot of heads. Imagine a case of pinot noir in stubby Chianti flasks, narrow Alsace bottles, perhaps a flattened Bocksbeutel. What chaos! What excitement! So, wineries: start refilling bottles, and then send me a case. I think I deserve it. And even if I don't deserve it, I need it." ::The Tyee

It gets sillier. We now have deposits on wine and liquor bottles in Ontario, and they all get returned to the beer store, with eight decades of experience in collecting, washing and redistributing bottles among the breweries, so the system is already in place to do this. Here is a challenge to our local wineries: try it. I will buy it and suspect a lot of others will too.


More on Box vs Bottle in TreeHugger

Eco-chic: Greenwashing from the Liquor Store
Hitting the Bottle or Hitting the Box? The Debate Continues
Drinking Outside the Box: Juice Boxes for Wine
Greenwash Watch: More Greenwashing from the LCBO :
French Rabbit: Savor the Wine , Save the Planet

Tags: Carbon Footprint | Environmental Footprint | Ontario | Recycling | Wine

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