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Wine - How Plastics Can Help Reduce Its Environmental Footprint

TORONTO, June 25, 2015 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- When we think of wine, we typically envision the glass bottle: its lovely shapes, the iconic "plunk!" when pulling the cork, the solidity of that heavy container in our hand.



Until one day you drop a wine bottle, and it shatters everywhere. It makes one wonder: why not offer wine in plastic containers?

And could lightweight plastics contribute to sustainability our eco-conscience? Given studies showing that plastic packaging can help reduce waste, energy use, and greenhouse gas emissions, could plastics help reduce the environmental footprint of this global industry?

Many leaders in the wine industry have been asking the same questions and working hard to improve sustainability in their operations. And, in fact, many wines already are sold or shipped in plastics. And recent innovations in plastics are helping keep wines fresh and tasty … plus lighten their environmental load.

Plastic Bottles

More and more wineries actually do sell their wines in bottles made with plastic, typically PET, the same type of plastic used for soft drink bottles.
And what about recycling? Plastic bottles are widely recycled across Canada and their recycling rates continue to grow.

Sounds great … recyclable, lightweight, shatter-resistant, helps reduce fuel costs and emissions. Still, based on the wines stocked on store shelves, you probably already know that plastic wine bottles have not taken the country by storm, as some predicted a few years back. However, offering wine in plastic bottles is a much more common practice abroad, so perhaps we will see a greater shift in the future as global sustainability goals advance.

Box or Bag?

What about wine-in-a-box? No plastics there, right? Well … of course, the wine in those boxes is not really touching the cardboard. The box basically is used to hold a bag that is made from plastic.

That bag and the plastic spigot do a good job of protecting the wine from oxygen, so the wine typically lasts longer than bottled wine that tends to go bad over time when the wine mingles with air after opening.

While boxed wine may not have the same caché as bottled wine, it's actually becoming quite popular. Fortunately, it's no longer primarily "plonk." Even Wine Spectator rates some of them and has nice things to say.

Tree Cork or Plastic Cork?

Traditional wine corks are made from cork oak trees that grow thick bark. The bark is harvested from time to time to make corks. One drawback: a contaminant common to bark corks taints one to five percent. Today's plastic corks typically are made of LDPE (low density polyethylene) plastic: a firm inner core holds the shape of the stopper and a spongy exterior is compressed into the bottleneck to form a seal.

Many consumers also find plastic stoppers easier to remove than cork stoppers that sometimes split or crumble, reducing those frustrating, losing battles with wine bottles that sometimes result in wasted wine.

Screw Tops

While screw tops are made with aluminum, it's really the small, round discs inside the cap—made from various plastics—that provide the seal needed to protect the wine. Some are even designed to regulate the amount of oxygen that can permeate the cap, behaving sort of like oak corks that allow wines to "breathe."

According to a wine chemist at U.C. Davis, "Screw-caps and the synthetic cork are more consistent. Significantly more consistent … In New Zealand corks are nearly unheard of, and in Australia screw-caps dominate the market."

A juice box?

Are those multilayer boxes of wine with the plastic screw tops just fancy versions of kids' juice boxes? Well, kind of. Wine packaging made from a layer of paper, foil, and plastic—similar to juice boxes—are quite popular worldwide for their portability, light weight, and practicality.

This packaging typically represents less than 10 percent of the total product; (that is 10 percent packaging, 90 percent wine, by weight). Glass typically weighs in at around half bottle, half wine. So these "juice boxes" use less material and can help reduce fuel costs and emissions when shipping. And like their wine-in-a-box cousins, good quality wines are increasingly turning to this handy packaging.

Next?

There are many other ways that plastics make possible the wine you may be serving with dinner, from lightweight crates for grape harvesting to thin single-serve pouches and recyclable goblets that are growing in popularity.

Boxes, bags, pouches, corks, liners, seals … Apparently efforts to reduce the environmental footprint of shipping and serving wine are leading to some pretty innovative changes.

Today's intelligent plastics are vital to the modern world. These materials enhance our lifestyles, our economy and the environment. For more information visit www.intelligentplastics.ca.

A photo accompanying this release is available at: http://www.globenewswire.com/newsroom/prs/?pkgid=34080

CONTACT: Darlene Gray CPIA 905.678.7748

Source:Canadian Plastics Industry Association