Outside the box Tuesday August 19, 2008, 5 comments

Tyler Colman, contributing to the New York Times, tells us why wine should not be bottled, but instead boxed:

A standard wine bottle holds 750 milliliters of wine and generates about 5.2 pounds of carbon-dioxide emissions when it travels from a vineyard in California to a store in New York. A 3-liter box generates about half the emissions per 750 milliliters. Switching to wine in a box for the 97 percent of wines that are made to be consumed within a year would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about two million tons, or the equivalent of retiring 400,000 cars.

That sounds amazing. Look at all those savings. Not only that:

What’s more, boxed wine is superior to glass bottle storage in resolving that age-old problem of not being able to finish a bottle in one sitting. Once open, a box preserves wine for about four weeks compared with only a day or two for a bottle. Boxed wine may be short on charm, but it is long on practicality.

While I disagree with the idea that one has half-drunk bottles of wine sitting around for more than a day, there’s something to the idea that a Tetra-Pack of wine keeps longer than a bottle.

One concern comes from the recycling angle. How recyclable are tetra-paks? What are the cradle to grave implications (or, for those in the know, the cradle to cradle implications) of plastic-and-paper Tetra-Paks vs. glass – one of the most recyclable materials known to man.

Another concern is from a hazardous materials point of view. What are the bisphenol levels of Tetra-Pak containers? Higher or lower than the traditional glass? Obviously not lower, as glass contains absolutely no bisphenols. Glass is, in fact, completely non-toxic.

While I am reserving judgement on the box vs bottle debate until I have more information, Mr. Colman’s article does demonstrate the biggest problem I have with most “green” movements out there, namely that they are as short sighted as the companies that are creating the problem in the first place. Just because something is ecologically “cheaper” now doesn’t mean it is more environmentally friendly over the long haul.

We need to start looking at cradle to grave costs of the packaging materials we use, in addition to the environmental impact of creating that packaging. We need to look at the impact of these packaging materials on the food chain, and on people.


sarah Tuesday August 19, 2008

Another point is that wine bottles are reusable, not just recyclable, which tetra-paks sure as hell aren’t. Although I don’t think that is happening in Ontario yet, it would be very easy to do as all the infrastructure is in place. The beer bottle reusing program is going very strong! Re-use a bottle once and suddenly the slim advantage of tetra-paks vanishes.

Adrian Tuesday August 19, 2008

It’s beer instead of wine, but apparently the Ontario Beer Store reclamation policy diverts 70% of the packaging from the products the store sells away from landfills.

Further, in terms of reuse, the Beer Store claims something like a 98% reuse for what it calls industry standard beer bottles. As each bottle is reused 15-20 times BEFORE BEING RECYCLED it becomes clear that glass has a major environmental and economic advantage over Tetra-Pak solutions.

It seems to me that a far better solution than Tetra-Paks would be for wine makers going to an industry standard wine bottle, and then countries around the world instituting collection systems like Ontario has at the Beer Store.

I strongly support glass.

Gareth Monday August 25, 2008

A 3L container made from any material will generally have a smaller footprint/volume than a smaller volume container – regardless of the material.

I suspect that the shelf life issue is more to do with the resealability (preventing product deterioration), rather than the package itself. Can anyone elaborate on this?

Liquid Carton are recycleable – however the technology is not always available locally.

The additional Weight and Bulk of a returnable glass bottle system is sometimes viable when you don’t have to truck empty glass bottles long distances.

Carton Packaging is a better solution than glass when products have to travel long distances. You can carry more volume on a truck, difficult to break, lighter, Recycleable (subject to local availability) and is made mainly from re-newable recources

Daniel Black Monday August 25, 2008

I have long supported a repurposing of Roman technology in the form of an alcoduct. Some day, the differentiation between first and third worlds won’t be running water, but running booze.

Adrian Monday August 25, 2008

Gareth, I totally agree. Wine should be sold in larger bottles!

As for the trucking long distance argument, it is valid, except that I think consuming more local wines is a better solution than making packaging cheaper to ship. We should be encouraging governments to make local wines mroe accessible to regular people.

Places like Virginia have great wine, but it’s insanely expensive. Why would I buy a Virginia wine, which is good, for more money than a french wine, which is great? For that matter, how are the French wines – which have to be shipped! – able to be sold for less money than the virginia ones?

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