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Cutting back on glass wine bottles


I see that the financial times magazine has an article on cutting back on glass bottles because glass has a high carbon footprint. I dont buy the FT just look at the front page on line. I expect someone in the community will have seen it. What are the alternatives ?



A Gin Distillery local to me has recently launched refills:

At £40 a bottle or £35 for the refill the savings aren’t as good as I’d hoped for. It’s already expensive for what it is (It is a good gin but ouch) but I thought the concept was a good idea especially as it can fit through an average letterbox.

Would it work with wine? I change what I’m drinking all the time. Boxed wine is nothing new. There’s a few places around here that import bulk table wine, store it in vats and you just bring your refillable bottle or container and fill up. They talk a lot but the wine isn’t up to much.


I assume you’re talking about wine, but from what I recall you don’t consume that much wine, and glass is used for so many other containers as well. The alternative appears to be plastic, but that’s no better for the planet.

Maybe its the wrong approach to be looking for alternatives, maybe better to make better use of what we have.

When I lived in Sweden the (ghastly) state monopoly Systembolaget bulk shipped and bottled many of the wine they sold using a standard bottle which could be returned for a refund (in an automatic machine!). The bottle was washed and reused.

Now so many bottles are bulk shipped and bottled in UK it’s possible - given the will (which probably means Government action) - to do the same.

However, its more one that I am not going to worry about.


The (actually really quite good :wink: ) state monopoly Systembolaget doesn’t seem to do that these days, but the enlightened and very environmentally aware swedes have a system called “pant” which allows you to recycle most glass, tins and plastic bottles for cash. Locally to us this is done by taking the recycling to a place in the supermarket and the resulting balance is deducted from your shopping. Nothing like Scandanavian efficiency!

In Swedish, but most browsers will translate…https://sv.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pant_(förpackning)#Sverige


I’m also intrigued by a reticence in consumers for wine shipped in bulk and bottled locally? It seems to me that these days the controlled environments used for shipping does keep the wine in tip-top condition and would significantly reduce the carbon footprint of inefficiently shipping glass bottles around the world?

I wonder if it is based on a misconception that winemakers are bottling soon after production, and an image of wine gently slumbering away in a cellar somewhere before being shipped to a consumer? I think the reality is that very few wine makers have the cellar storage capacity nor their own bottling facilities to do this. Many wines are bottled on remote or mobile bottling plants and shipped immediately.

For, larger winemakers that do store or age wines before release, then the wines are often held in huge stainless steel tanks or wooden equivalents (barrels, foudres, etc).

For examples, Guigal - here’s a picture from their “cellars” - the huge metal thing to my right holds 1 million bottles of wine and it only leaves there when it’s ready to be bottled and dispatched immediately…

What would the difference be if it was control pumped into bag/tanker, shipped to the UK and bottled here?


It was Jancis column. The basic gist was that anything designed to age for a significant period in bottle is unlikely be shipped in anything other than glass, due to limited completely neutral alternatives, but for the vast majority of wine sold, that is meant to be consumed straight away, more of it could be shipped in bulk and packaged in anything from cans, ‘bag-in-box’ or even just ‘bags’, and that even more could be bottled at destination rather than origin.


that million litres must be when my wife asks for some more guitar CdR white ! :joy:


My mum is Dutch and when visiting as a kid they had a similar system. Applied to most plastic bottles and some glass bottles (mostly large beer breweries IIRC). What couldn’t get a refund went to the glassbanks which were in lots of places and split into clear / brown / green. I was always disappointing we never had it here, great fun feeding the bottles into the machine so fast it crashed


I remember as a child the large bottles of lemonade by R White. If you took an empty bottle back you got 4old pence. Us kids would get as many empty bottles as we could to get the money.


Yes, the same with Ben Shaw’s bottles in Yorkshire, I remember as a kid hunting for ones people had dumped in hedges etc and taking them back for the deposit :slight_smile: Happy days…


We must agree to disagree, and since Sweden joined the EU the Systembolaget has improved (it couldn’t get worse) so now its like a standard wine shop in which you can pick up bottles and take them to a checkout. And it keeps to EU wine labelling laws, no more Spanish sauterne or Hungarian burgundy.

When I was there, they had one bottle of each wine behind barred glass around the shop wall. You took a number from a machine and waited on benches to be called.

You had to select the wine you wanted by writing its 4 digit number on a form supplied. When your number was called you went to the counter and handed them the paper, they went to the back of the shop. If they returned and said they didn’t have any of that wine, then you either had to know the 4 digit number of a replacement, leave empty handed, or go to the back of the queue and try again.

Plus there was only one shop per area, and they were only open during working hours, not in the evening or weekends, or holidays or the say before holidays. I had to borrow a bike at lunchtime to go to the only bolaget nearest to where I worked, so was limited to buying only what I could carry from the handlebars in carrier bags - which of course you couldn’t get from the systembolaget.

But the worst thing about the Systembolaget is it had the monopoly. If the Systembolaget didn’t list the wine you wanted, it wasn’t available. There was no competition. TWS has a good range of wine but suppose they were the only seller - no wine in supermarkets, no Majestic, no online ordering. That’s what a monopoly gives you.

I loathed it.


There are places in England where the wine is all behind glass . You have to point to which bottle you want and the man also behind the glass goes and gets it for you. I once stayed in a Franciscan friary in Laurel Lane Liverpool for a weekend-sadly no longer there;. I was the only guest . I thought I will get a bottle of wine to share with the Brothers All the off licences were the same.Glass wall between customers and the booze. This was because in Liverpool there had been a tradition whereby gangs would invade a shop take all the bottles off the walls and run off with them. Know idear if thats still true.


I think we must! The Systembolaget you describe is not the Systembolaget I use now and probably reflects some significant time ago.

For example, if I search for Red Wine on the Systembolaget website I am presented with a current choice of 5396 products. A similar search on TWS for comparison yields 958.

I’m presented with a choice of everything from £5 plonk to Chateau Margaux. And if that’s not enough, because Sweden remains in the EU I have complete freedom to buy anything, from anywhere in Europe, and have it delivered, including currently from TWS.

I’m not short of choice. Times change.


The answer has to come from Gov legislation (and I hope it never comes to this) - namely a ‘carbon tax’ (or similar) on imported products. Imagine if wine cost significantly more overnight? double maybe?

In one fell swoop we have reduction in wine imports in bottle, a generous nod towards the Greens, encouragement to local production, and perhaps not much change in Gov revenue?

Singapore for instance, a bottle of Beaujolais costs £30 ish, a pint bottle of beer is £10 even if local.


That has changed in Norway[1], and I presume Sweden too as it was in response to EU requirements. There is still a retail monopoly, but anyone can set up a business to import wine, and the state monopoly is required then to stock it. (Prior to the EU putting its foot down, there was an import monopoly too). So now there is at least a degree of freedom and competition. Also (at least in Norway) you can order online.

Overall, I think the availability of decent wine is probably better than would be provided in those countries by the free market. Granted, the selection is better in the UK (at least if you include online and mailorder), but the UK is a much bigger market.,

[1] To be fair, what I quoted is still true, but there is more competition in what they list


Yes times have changed. But I do very much recognise the picture Peter painted in the Norway of the early 80s.

In Norway you were given anonymous brown plastic bags, which announced to the world louder than any branded bag would “I have just been buying booze”.

For a short period when I was there, monopoly shops even closed on Saturday to see if it lessened Saturday night drunkenness - as I worked whenever the shops were open, I stood more chance of being able to buy drink at an airport when passing through. In more rural areas, you just made your own


But why not import wine in large containers and bottle it here. That happens now for some wines.


They probably still exist. Had one 5 mins walk from where I live a few years ago. That and the brothel were the last vestiges of a rough area. But since we moved in, it has become all posh, with wine bars, delis and restaurants :slight_smile:


Didn’t it have to change to comply with EU competition law after Sweden joined the EU?


Indeed, for many Australian wines for example. I think Accolade Wines have a giant bottling plant in Weybridge.

Surely, if we go back a hundred years, nearly all wine was shipped here in bulk and bottled by the various merchants of the day. I seem to recall Alsace breaking the system by passing a law to enforce bottling in the region.