Wine packaging material is a climate choice

Single-use plastic bottles have become our arch enemies in the plastic challenge. However, recyclable PET bottles are a relatively ecological way to package wine – as long as people remember to recycle them.

We studied the environmental impact of different types of wine packaging and their carbon footprints. According to the study, the smallest climate impacts per litre of beverage were as follows:

  • bag-in-box 70 g CO2e/l
  • carton 80 g CO2e/l 
  • bag 96 g CO2e/l 
  • PET plastic bottle 245 g CO2e/l
  • lightweight glass bottle (under 420 grams) 525 g CO2e/l
  • traditional glass bottle (about 540 grams) 675 g CO2e/l

Surprising carbon footprint for PET plastic bottles

The most climate-friendly of all the bottled alternatives was the PET plastic bottle. The carbon footprint of a PET plastic bottle is 245 g CO2e/l compared to 675 g CO2e/l for a traditional glass wine bottle. The PET bottle’s smaller carbon footprint is largely due to smaller energy consumption during the production phase. Deposit PET bottles also have an excellent recycling rate of over 90 per cent in Finland.

Lightweight glass bottles a more climate-friendly choice than traditional glass bottles

The climate impact of a lightweight, 420-gram glass bottle is naturally less than that of a heavier bottle: 525 g CO2e/l. Products packaged in these lightweight glass bottles can be found both on Alko store shelves and in our online shop, marked with the Environmentally responsible package symbol

The lighter the packaging, the smaller the climate impact

In the recently published study, the product’s total carbon footprint did not include the impact of transportation or the emissions caused by the beverage’s production, as we analysed their relative magnitudes in an earlier study. The logistics of transporting heavy glass bottles naturally leads to many times more emissions. Alko intends to study the impacts of transportation in greater detail. This is challenging, as even products from the same producer may travel to Finland via different routes. A good rule of thumb for consumers who want to make environmentally friendly decisions is that the lighter and more recyclable the packaging, the smaller the climate impact.

From an environmental angle, the weight and size of packaging are important criteria. Heath and wellbeing gives another perspective on the packaging debate. When it comes to health, small package sizes, such as small wine bottles, are naturally a more responsible choice than box wines. 

Seeking to reduce environmental impacts

In our recent study, we analysed not only CO2e emissions but also wine packaging materials and their development from the perspective of recyclability and littering, in an attempt to examine the plastic challenge in a more comprehensive manner. Alko wants to reduce the environmental impacts of its own operations. That’s why we are extremely interested in recyclable materials, particularly PET plastic and other lightweight and easily recyclable materials such as aluminium. Also of interest to us are brand-new, environmentally friendly material innovations and sustainable development certificates for product packaging and packaging materials.

Plastic bottles can also be good guys, as long as we remember to recycle

During the spring, consumers have woken up to the problematic nature of single-use plastics. An important element in addressing the plastic issue is to improve the use of recycled materials and ensure that recycling systems are properly maintained. Product deposits play a key role in this. According to Palpa’s statistics, less than 10 per cent of deposit plastic bottles are not recycled, and they rarely end up littering Finnish nature.

How CO2 calculations were performed
Gaia Consulting calculated the CO2 footprints of wine packaging in the selections of Alko, Systembolaget and Vinmonopolet. The calculations include only the loading that results from the manufacture of the packaging. Other background data used included wine production countries and their sales volumes for 2017. This data was used to calculate the average emissions caused by each type of packaging material.