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Bottle Collection Initiative aims to realise ‘reusable supply chain’

Published:  14 May, 2024

Research into a bottle reuse initiative launched during last year’s London Wine Fair (LWF) has now concluded, with a Reuse Ready Charter now set to formalise an industry wide approach.

The LWF23 Bottle Collection Initiative was a partnership between The Porto Protocol, Sustainable Wine Solutions and London Wine Fair, which set out to collect and analyse around 20,000 empty bottles collected from last year’s exhibitors. The Porto Protocol, whose mission is to address climate action in the wine world, challenged LWF to platform this initiative back in early 2023 along with Sustainable Wine Solutions – UK experts in wine bottle return.

The full findings are due to be released at next week’s LWF.

Organisers are now focused on making reuse “the gold standard”. There is a growing consensus that this is the way forward, they said, along with the understanding that “the number of bottles being produced must reduce”.

The Reuse Ready Charter will now consider action points which the industry can adopt throughout the supply chain. The intention is to assess if, in the current state of play, a reusable supply chain could be a possibility and what would need to happen for this to become a reality.

The backdrop to the initiative paints a concerning picture. Over 32 billion wine bottles are produced annually, and with each bottle releasing an average of 600g of CO₂, the total carbon emissions equate to 19.8million tons per annum. The UK alone consumes an average 1.77bn bottles of wine per annum, most of which are single use.

Single-use wine glass bottles account for 35% of the carbon footprint associated with each bottle of wine. In terms of circular models, reusable glass offers the greatest potential to reduce environmental impacts: reusable glass bottles produce 85% fewer carbon emissions than their single-use counterparts, 75% fewer carbon emissions than plastic (PET) and 57% fewer carbon emissions than aluminium cans (Zero Waste Europe).

Michael Giannuzi, CEO of Verallia (Europe’s leading manufacturer of glass bottles for the drinks industry) said: “As glassmaking experts, we cannot afford to be smug about producing an infinitely recyclable material. That’s a great starting point for our industry. But glass is only sustainable when it is reused when and wherever possible and does in fact get recycled.”

The wide variation in bottle sizes and weights presents a significant barrier however, as it complicates the scalability of schemes which are essential to make a reuse supply chain a reality. The results show “chaos on a big scale”, according to Muriel Chatel of Sustainable Wine Solutions. In a sample of 1,047 bottles, there were 947 different types, varying in terms of shape, weight and design. With only 7% of bottles being the same, this creates a significant challenge for reuse. The good news is that 73% of bottles can be reused, giving substantial opportunities for the industry.

Head of the LWF, Hannah Tovey, added: “This report provides vital intelligence for the global wine industry. The industry’s consumption of glass is just not sustainable and whilst the solutions won’t come overnight, the Reuse Ready Charter provides a valuable tool for producers, glass manufacturers, buyers – everyone in the industry – willing (and able) to make a change.”

The findings will be presented on the LWF’s Centre Stage from 12.45pm to 13.45pm on Wednesday 22 May and will home in on three key areas: an open letter to glass manufacturers urging them to listen to the global wine industry, its biggest customer; leveraging corporate responsibility; and The Reuse Ready International Charter.