We need choice and fair comparison on packaging

We need choice and fair comparison on packaging

June 18, 2017
Selection of bottles

Nick Kirk, British Glass technical director, is pleased that BBC Good Food Magazine has published his right to reply letter addressing a misleading article that promoted bag-in-a-box wine at the risk of undermining important messages about recycling.

An article appeared in the recent eco edition (May 2017) of BBC Good Food extoling the green virtues of boxed wine: a key part of its rationale was that wine bottles are ‘single use’ and take ‘a millions years to decompose’ in landfill - and my quick check of the facts used revealed it was heavily based on one wine box company’s marketing material, using statistics from some dubious sources.

As I stressed in my response to BBC Good Food – which they published in the June edition – there is simply no reason for a bottle or jar to go to landfill. In fact recycling is one of the most realistic and effective ways available for UK wine drinkers to minimise their environmental impact.

Glass bottles are 100% recyclable – they can and should be re-melted back into new packaging indefinitely. And glass recycling facilities are available right across the UK. In contrast, the plastic bags inside wine boxes are not currently recyclable in the UK.

Talking about how wine bottles decompose, if they do end up in landfill, is also misleading.

Glass is made from non-toxic sand, lime and soda ash. If it does go to landfill it only breaks down mechanically, turning back into what is essentially sand – harmless to the environment. In fact in the US and New Zealand powdered recycled glass has been used to combat beach erosion! (Plastics – such as the bag inside a wine box – can however become chemically active as they decompose, potentially causing problems.)

The BBC Good Food article also opened with a statistic about the energy it takes to melt glass – which turned out to be approximately ten times the actual amount (when compared to calculations done using current official data).

And what the article completely glossed over was that recycling waste glass reduces the energy required to melt glass for wine bottles by around 25%. The more recycled material that goes in, the less energy is needed. But at the moment demand for waste glass to recycle outstrips supply – the industry needs us all to recycle our glass packaging – it really does matter.

But the benefits of recycling glass go beyond the manufacturing process. Packaging made from recycled material reduces that need for virgin raw materials, and so in turn the impact on the environment from the extraction and transport of these. Something not every packaging material can boast.

British Glass believes consumer choice is important and clearly different packaging solutions have their merits and place, but in this instance a fair comparison has not been made. UK-made glass bottles contain on average 30% recycled material and often 65% or more for green wine bottles. So wine-lovers can be reassured that when they buy wine in glass and recycle, they’re making an excellent, sustainable choice.