Packaging has a significant effect on the carbon footprint of a beverage

In spring 2021, Alko commissioned the first study of its climate impacts. The study was conducted by Gaia Consulting. It revealed that product packaging accounts for 24 per cent of the carbon footprint of Alko’s value chain. “The study supported the results of earlier assessments and bolstered the role of beverage packaging,” says Maiju Sirviö, Alko’s Sustainable Development Specialist.

The production of beverages and their packaging generates the most significant emissions. Together, they account for 77 per cent of the total emissions. It is more challenging to tackle the emissions from beverage production, but we can have a greater impact through our packaging choices. For this reason, Alko pays special attention to beverage packaging. 

When assessing the different product groups and types of packaging, the traditional and heavy wine bottles comprise the largest source of emissions. Alko’s selection includes lightweight glass bottles. These are labelled with the “Environmentally Responsible Packaging” symbol. Changing the material from glass to plastic yields significant changes in the carbon footprint. For instance, in bottled wines, the carbon footprint of a PET plastic bottle is just 36 per cent of that of a heavy glass bottle. In addition, the PET bottles are lighter – and as they are unbreakable, they do not need to be handled as carefully. 

Maiju Sirviö
Alko’s Sustainable Development Specialist Maiju Sirviö.

New packaging types challenge the traditional bottles 

Beverages traditionally come in bottles, the type of container that many consumers are still most familiar with – but new, more environmentally friendly solutions have also claimed their place at Alko. A handy easy-to-remember rule: the lighter and more recyclable the packaging, the smaller its climate impact. The wine packages with the smallest carbon footprints are bag-in-boxes, cartons and wine pouches. Each Alko store – with a few exceptions – serves as a collection point for wine pouches and the inner bags of bag-in-boxes, which can be challenging to recycle. 

“We are constantly working to improve the environmental friendliness of packaging. This also includes finetuning our selection criteria. We strive to support and help our customers in making responsible purchase decisions, and we aim to develop our selection to be more sustainable as a whole. A variety of symbols – such as the Green Choice label – inform the consumers that the product or packaging in question takes sustainable development into consideration,” states Maiju Sirviö. 

“The development of packaging is making great strides, and proactive environmental efforts are being carried out both at Alko and throughout our value chains,” Sirviö sums up. “Every one of us can make a difference with our individual choices. And it is important to recycle beverage packaging correctly, no matter what material it is made of.”