Beverage packing material has a significant climate impact

Beverage packaging and its manufacture accounts for a significant proportion of a beverage’s carbon footprint. One easy-to-remember rule is: the lighter and more recyclable the packaging, the smaller its climate impacts.

According to studies commissioned by Alko in 2018 and 2019, there are great variations in the carbon footprints of different types of wine packaging per litre of beverage. Glass bottles generate the most emissions and greatest environmental impacts per litre of beverage, while boxed wines generate the smallest. When it comes to environmental impacts, the weight and size of packaging are decisive criteria.

The carbon footprints of different types of wine packaging per litre of beverage:

  • Boxed wine 70 g CO2e/l
  • Cardboard carton 85 g CO2e/l
  • Wine pouch 96 g CO2e/l
  • Aluminium can 190 g CO2e/l
  • PET plastic bottle 245 g CO2e/l
  • Lightweight glass bottle (less than 420 grams) 525 g CO2e/l
  • Traditional glass bottle (about 540 grams) 675 g CO2e/l

For wine and beer, the greatest environmental impacts are caused by the manufacture of product packaging. For strong alcoholic beverages, package manufacture comes second after the energy consumed by distilleries during beverage production. So the beverage packaging you choose really does make a difference! Read more about the environmental impacts of alcoholic beverages.

Great variation in the carbon footprints of different types of bottles

Studies show that the most climate-friendly of all the bottled alternatives is the PET plastic bottle. Its carbon footprint is only 36% of that of a traditional glass bottle. PET plastic bottles have a lower climate impact, because less energy is required to manufacture this type of packaging. Glass manufacture requires an extremely high temperature of about 1,400–1,600˚C, which requires a lot of energy to achieve.

The climate impact of lightweight 420-gram glass bottles is also less than that of traditional bottles. Lightweight glass bottles have a carbon footprint that is about 22% less than that of traditional glass bottles. Products in lightweight glass bottles can be found in Alko’s Green Choice selection, marked with the ‘environmentally responsible packaging’ symbol. Read more about Green Choice labelling and learn more about the ‘environmentally responsible packaging’ symbol.

The most climate-friendly of all the bottled alternatives is the PET plastic bottle.

Lightweight materials have less climate impacts

For wines, studies show that boxed wines, bagged wines and cardboard cartons have the lowest carbon footprints and least climate impacts per litre. The carbon footprint of aluminium cans is also less than that of plastic and glass bottles, as long as the cans are made from 70 per cent recycled aluminium, which is the general average in aluminium can manufacture. However, using recycled aluminium in aluminium packaging still has a larger carbon footprint than other forms of lightweight packaging.

Lightweight and recyclable packaging also reduces the climate impacts of other beverages

The studies commissioned by Alko examined the climate impacts of different types of wine packaging, but these results can also be utilised in other beverage categories. The same general rule also applies to packaging for brewery products and strong alcoholic beverages: the lighter and more recyclable the packaging, the smaller its climate impacts.

Recycling is worthwhile for all materials

Consumers have become aware of the many problems caused by single-use plastic, such as microplastics in our waterways and floating islands of plastic in our oceans. Effective recycling is essential in preventing problematic waste, whether the material in question is glass, plastic, aluminium or cardboard. When it comes to beverage packaging, deposits play an important role, as they encourage consumers to return valuable materials for recycling. It is also worthwhile recycling non-deposit packaging correctly. Read more about sorting and recycling beverage packaging.

Together with goods suppliers

Alko seeks to take climate impacts into consideration and develop low-emission and easily recyclable packaging for its assortment in cooperation with its goods suppliers. To this end, Alko has provided its goods suppliers with research information on the environmental and climate impacts of beverages and a CO2 emission calculator for beverage packaging.

Background studies

In 2018, Gaia Consulting calculated the CO2e footprints of the different types of wine packaging (bag-in-boxes, cardboard boxes, wine pouches, PET plastic bottles, lightweight glass bottles and traditional glass bottles) sold by Alko, Systembolaget (Sweden) and Vinmonopolet (Norway). Read the final report.

A further study by Gaia Consulting in 2019 assessed the carbon footprint of aluminium packaging. Unlike in the earlier study, the carbon footprint was calculated based on external data rather than data based on the selections of the monopolies, as aluminium plays a very minor role in wine packaging. For that reason, this is mentioned separately in connection with the research results. Read the final report on the aluminium packaging study.