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Bulk wine imports slash carbon emissions, study

By Chris Mercer , 24-May-2007

Wine firms can significantly reduce their carbon footprint by importing wine in bulk and bottling it in lighter glass, a new study from the UK says.

Shipping wine in bulk instead of bottles can cut carbon emissions by 30-40 per cent without losing quality, the UK-based Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) has said. And lighter wine bottles, weighing 300g instead of a previous 500g standard, can also cut carbon footprint by around 30 per cent, WRAP announced at this week's London International Wine and Spirits Fair. The study confirms there is significant room for wine firms to improve their environmental credentials, but maintaining wine quality during transportation remains a deciding factor. Britain guzzles £7.6bn-worth of wine imports every year, making it the world's largest importer. Nearly half of that is brought from different corners of the New World. UK supermarkets Tesco, Asda and Somerfield, as well as wine firm Constellation Brands, are trialling bulk importing and use of lighter bottles as part of WRAP's GlassRite project. Andy Dawe, WRAP's glass technology manager, said of the new study: "This report is important because it allows importers to make informed decisions about cutting their emissions." He said bottling more wine in the UK would also cut the amount of green glass entering the country's recycling system. Britain is currently battling hard to meet EU recycling and waste reduction targets on a range of packaging materials. WRAP's new study analysed wine's carbon footprint from Australia's Berri Estate and France's iconic Bordeaux region, an example of the furthest and closest wine regions to the UK. Bulk shipping doubled the capacity of wine able to be transported, which could cut emissions by 40 per cent for Australian wines and 30 per cent for French ones. More transport options are available for European wine. And for France, researchers found that sending bottled wine by rail instead of road could again chop carbon emissions by nearly a third. Transporting wine in bulk is a contentious issue in some parts of the wine industry, however. Some argue there is a greater risk of spoilage or reduced quality. And many wineries regularly use 'bottled on site' as a marketing tool denoting traceability and quality assurance. Andy Dawe, of WRAP, told BeverageDaily.com he was confident quality could be maintained with bulk imports. "Wine shipped from Australia will go through a series of temperature changes. Bottles on the outside of the group are more susceptible to this, but wine transported in one bulk container will be constantly moving around." He accepted some higher end wineries may prefer to continue bottling at source, but added this was only a small part of the UK market in volume terms. One representative for Wine Australia said the industry may be willing to consider more bulk imports if new technology ensured wine quality could be maintained. "Concern for the environment is currently driving tremendous growth in demand for bulk wine transport solutions," according to the JF Hillebrand Group, now one of the world's leading bulk wine logistics firms.

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