Sainsbury’s to sell wine in PET bottles

UK retailer Sainsbury’s is trialling barrier-enhanced PET wine bottles across more than 450 of its stores as part of an ongoing programme aimed at developing more sustainable and energy efficient packaging formats.

Initially available in four variants, the 75cl bottles (pictured) are manufactured by Amcor PET Packaging using Constar’s Oxbar barrier technology and a screw cap closure. The bottle is styled to look like a traditional glass wine package, which Sainsbury’s claims is a first for the UK beverage sector.

The UK is the world’s biggest importer of wine and consumes around 1bn bottles a year. With a conventional glass bottle weighing anywhere between 300 and 800g, that amounts to some 500,000 tonnes of glass each year, according to the retailer.

The new PET bottle, available in clear and green versions, weighs 54g. It has been developed with help from UK government-funded WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme), which estimates that replacing every wine bottle used in the UK with the lightest current glass designs could reduce CO2 emissions by 90,000 tonnes a year from manufacturing savings alone.

The bottles are being filled in the UK from bulk containers by Corby Bottlers. Sainsbury’s does not expect consumers to notice any reduction in quality in the packaged product, despite advising customers to consume the wine within three months.

“The shelf life of the wine in this packaging is expected to be at least 6 months,” a spokesperson for the retailer told PRW.com. “Our customers are concerned about recycling and carbon issues together with convenience, so the option of a lightweight unbreakable, recyclable wine bottle closed with a screwcap meets a lot of their requirements.”

Glass is perceived as a highly sustainable option by UK consumers because of the widespread recycling infrastructure. However, green glass has long presented a challenge for recyclers as the country imports twice as much as it manufactures, most in the form of wine packaging.

A number of alternative second life options have been developed for collected green glass cullet, including fibre insulation production, aggregate replacement and re-exporting to wine producing countries in Europe.

PET bottles are now collected for recycling by 92% of UK local authorities. WRAP hopes to use the Sainsbury’s trial – which will last at least three months – to determine consumer reaction to the PET packaging format, to understand how effective the recycling process is, and to measure the full environmental impact.

By Chris Smith.

UPDATELuxist has pointed out just making the glass bottles thinner would be a better way to reduce carbon emissions. Also, switching over to plastic might be an easier solution simply because it’s cheaper to produce than glass (just make sure it’s recycled).

Another potential downside: the wines will not keep as well in the plastic bottles, and their shelf lives will be limited. According to Wine Society buyer Pierre Mansour, the flavor won’t be the same either: “Plastic is more absorbent and will absorb some of the flavour.”