While it may not win you any elegance points at your next big soiree, serving your wine in plastic bottles should help burnish your green credentials. Sainsbury's, a chain of supermarkets in the U.K., has just announced that it plans on selling wine in recyclable plastic bottles instead of glass as part of a trial.
It claims the switch will reduce carbon emissions by slashing the weight of wine packaging — a plastic bottle weighs one-eighth as much as a typical 14 oz (400 g) glass bottle. This move could cut emissions by almost 90,000 tons according to the Water and Resources Action Program (WRAP), a government-funded organization. "That's equivalent to taking 28,000 cars off the road for a year," said a spokeswoman (though that sounds a little too optimistic to us).
Wine Society buyer Pierre Mansour is sceptical. "From a technical point of view, the wines will not keep as well in plastic," he says, "because it's not as inert a material as glass, so their shelf life is limited." How limited? Mansour would give the sauvignon blanc six months - "even in glass, we recommend our New Zealand sauvignon blancs are drunk within the first year" - and the shiraz a little longer, because the tannins in red wine act as an antioxidant.Though it views the move as promising, WRAP plans on reserving its full judgment until it conducts a full analysis of the packaging's environmental impact and the energy use required to recycle the plastic bottle versus a glass bottle. Sainsbury's will bottle the wine in the U.K. and use bulk shipping, which also helps reduce carbon emissions.
For those of you who worry the plastic may in some way detract from the wine's full flavor, rest easy: "The new wine bottle looks exactly the same as a glass bottle, holds the same amount of liquid and doesn't compromise the quality of the wine in any way," said Barry Dick, Sainsbury's product technologist for wines, beers and spirits. So, yes, though we can't say that we wholeheartedly embrace the measure — we're still stuck with plastic bottles, after all — it's still a better solution than the conventional alternative...
UPDATE: ... or maybe not: as several of the commenters and Luxist have pointed out, just making the glass bottles thinner would be a better way to reduce carbon emissions. Also, switching over to plastic might be an easier solution simply because it's cheaper to produce than glass (just make sure it's recycled).
Another potential downside: the wines will not keep as well in the plastic bottles, and their shelf lives will be limited. According to Wine Society buyer Pierre Mansour, the flavor won't be the same either: "Plastic is more absorbent and will absorb some of the flavour."
See also: ::A Well-Rounded, Dome-estic Wine with Fuller Aspirations, ::Wine and Biodiesel Byproducts Combine to Make 'Green' Polymer, ::Protect our Earth Glasses Recycled from Wine Bottles
Image courtesy of sporkist via flickr