Is Boxed Wine Sustainable?
For many sustainability advocates, glass is the gold standard. Endlessly recyclable, it’s a sturdy material that doesn’t degrade like plastic, making it ideal for storing food and drink without fear of leaching chemicals.
So it makes sense that many people assume that wine packaged in glass bottles is more sustainable than alternatives, like boxed wine.
But there are a lot of issues with glass you may not have thought about
Problems With Glass Packaging in Wine Bottles
1 | Glass production is resource-intensive.
Glass is made with sand, soda ash, and limestone that is processed into a liquid form using extremely hot furnaces. The process requires the use of non-renewable natural resources and plenty of fossil fuels. When recycled glass is used, it must be broken down again and reintegrated into new packaging.
By comparison, cardboard and plastic packaging used for Bota Box wines generate 59% fewer greenhouse gas emissions during production.
2 | Glass is expensive to recycle.
Many local recycling services around the U.S. have stopped accepting glass due to issues with processing, the growing popularity of single stream trash services (which are less efficient at processing recyclables), and the expense of recycling.
This is complicated by the fact that there is less demand for glass in packaging due to the popularity of plastic and cardboard.
3 | Glass is comparatively difficult to ship.
Glass poses at least two downsides during shipment: it’s heavy and it’s fragile. The weight of glass as compared to plastic and cardboard adds up to significant differences in fossil fuels needed to ship products. There’s also a higher likelihood of breakage during transit.
Compared to glass, boxed wine like that from Bota Box can be packaged and shipped more efficiently, resulting in a 60% smaller carbon footprint during shipping and distribution.
4 | Glass can take over 1 million years to break down.
While recycling glass would be ideal, at the U.S. current glass recycling rate of 33%, glass packaging actually poses a problem. It does not easily degrade, which means any trashed glass will remain in landfills for a very long time.
By comparison, cardboard packaging from Bota Box creates 85% less landfill waste.
5 | Wine degrades quickly in glass bottles.
Even when kept in cool storage, an open bottle of wine will only keep for 5 days. If you’re not throwing a party and your household is small, that can add up to a lot of product waste.
My husband doesn’t generally drink wine and I only drink a glass or two a week. Boxed wine is a great choice for me because it lasts 6-8 weeks after opening.
Is boxed wine more sustainable than glass?
I don’t mean to suggest that boxed wine is without a sustainability downside. As this linked Going Zero Waste article suggests, it is extremely important that we reduce our reliance on single-use packaging in all forms.
Ideally, glass recycling will improve in the U.S. and manufacturers will continue to innovate when it comes to compostable and biodegradable packaging. There is a lot to be desired when it comes to our recycling infrastructure.
If you have glass you want to recycle, consider repurposing it for storage first. And make sure your local recycling facility will accept it. To recycle cardboard, ensure that it’s clean and free from food residue.
When lifestyle, shipping, and recycling practices are taken into account, boxed wine is a surprisingly sustainable option.
More on Bota Box
- 100% recyclable cartons are made from paper containing more than 95% post-consumer fiber from FSC-certified forests
- Boxes are printed with VOC-free, water-based inks and bonded with cornstarch instead of synthetic glues
- Wine is produced at Bota Box’s Certified Sustainable California winery
- It’s even Tree Hugger approved
Leah Wise is the founder of StyleWise Blog. She has been writing, speaking, and consulting on sustainable fashion, the fair trade and secondhand supply chain, and digital marketing for over ten years. An Episcopal priest, Leah holds a B.A. in Religion from Florida State University and an M.Div. from Yale Divinity School. When not working, you can find her looking for treasures at the thrift store.