After hearing about the damage caused by plastic waste on the beaches and in the oceans, the news that environmental organizations encouraged winemakers to store their wine in plastic bottles was a big surprise. Many cities assess extra fees on plastic bags to discourage shoppers from using plastic, and conduct anti-plastic informational campaigns. Nevertheless, winemakers in the United Kingdom received support from government supported environmental organizations for their plastic bottle initiative, reported Wine Anorak.
Although glass does not create floating islands of trash, it does have one major environmental disadvantage in comparison with plastic. Winemakers frequently ship their wines to markets in distant nations, and glass is heavy. Because plastic bottles weigh less than glass bottles, the trucks that carry the plastic wine bottles release fewer carbon emissions during transport. Wine Anorak states that the British government has calculated that switching to plastic wine bottles reduces annual carbon dioxide emissions by 90,000 tons.
Consumers who know about the issues that plastic waste creates may need some additional convincing before they purchase plastic wine bottles. Lesley Gevirtz, for the Globe and Mail, gives a more detailed argument, explaining that glass wine bottles weigh almost ten times more than plastic wine bottles, and PET can be recycled.
Of course, responsible parties need to make sure that consumers drop off PET in recycling bins and local facilities are available for PET recycling.
Glass manufacturers could reduce transportation costs by selling thinner bottles to winemakers. According to Modern Wine Magazine, British winemakers did make this request, but it irritated the glass manufacturers, as they did not want to produce thinner glass bottles. Transportation costs for the thinner glass bottles would still be higher than the costs of transporting plastic bottles, as reducing glass thickness by 90 percent would make wine bottles much more fragile.
The Daily Mail brings up a major issue with plastic wine bottles, mentioning a study that claims that white wine degrades in six months when stored in plastic bottles, although red wine suffered fewer effects. This is not a major problem for a consumer who plans to drink her wine soon after she buys it, but a consumer who plans to store the wine in her cellar for a longer period should be aware of this issue.
Of course, the switch to plastic bottles also affects costs. Winemakers pay less money to ship their lighter plastic bottles to far off foreign markets. Many beverage makers prefer plastic containers because of their durability, as glass bottles shatter easily. Wine makers do face a tradeoff here, as plastic bottles do make their wines look cheaper. For a budget wine this isn’t as important, but customers may not be willing to buy a high end wine in a plastic bottle.