Up to 60% of wine’s carbon footprint comes from manufacturing the bottle.
That is a whole lot of carbon in one part of your vino. And, it is a good reason to do something responsible with the wine bottle once you are done downing your favorite red, white or blush.
Only 28% of the glass Americans buy gets recycled, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports
. It is a shame, because glass can be recycled forever, and turning old product into new represents a big win for the environment.
How wine bottles and other types of glass are recycled
Assuming your community accepts glass at the curb or at recycling centers
, rinse each container well before putting it in the recycling bin. Glass grouped by color (typically green, brown and clear) will fetch a higher price, so be sure and pay attention to whether you need to do that separation yourself.
When glass makes it to a recycling facility it is crushed into small pieces called cullet. The cullet is put in a furnace and combined with a small amount of the materials needed to create new glass, including sand and limestone. The furnace heats up to between 2,600 and 2,800°F depending on the type of glass. Once the glass is liquefied it can be formed into new vessels. (For more on how glass gets recycled check out this video from Planet Money, titled “How a Used Bottle Becomes a New Bottle
Besides becoming a new containers, recycled glass can also become building materials such as tile, beads, fiberglass, roadbed underlay (in place of gravel) and frictionators (match heads).
New glass can be made with up to 70% cullet, so using recycled glass means less mining for new materials. It also means less energy usage, since cullet melts at a lower temperature than brand-new materials, as well as a longer life for glass furnaces and fewer carbon emissions. Consider this: Every 6 tons of glass that gets recycled saves 1 ton of carbon from being released into the atmosphere.
Manufacturers are always on the lookout for clean, good-quality cullet. There is never enough out there, reports the Glass Packaging Institute
, a trade organization that represents the industry. The Container Recycling Institute, another trade group, reports that recycling 1,000 tons of glass creates eight jobs
. So, making sure those wine bottles get recycled can help the economy, too.
Wineries, individuals trying to put wine bottles back to use
Several California companies have tried and failed to wash bottles and put them back to use in the wine industry. The latest attempt was by Napa-based Wine Bottle Renew, which opened in 2011 and closed down soon after.
People who make wine at home can definitely bottle their products in recycled bottles. The key is making sure the bottle is completely clean, dry and sanitized. A quick Google search will turn up plenty of sites with advice on washing and sanitizing wine bottles for reuse. Look for sites that also share ideas for removing labels from the outside of the bottles. That can be tough, given that labels are attached with products made to last through cold, wet conditions.
For people who hate to see all those wine bottles go to waste, look to see if any wineries near you have a refillable bottle program. Wilridge Winery in Seattle
offers its Maison seasonal wine in a large bottle that customers can return and have refilled. Sones Cellars in Santa Cruz provides its Hedgehog Red wine in reusable bottles with reusable closures. Tank18 in San Francisco
encourages customers to bring their own bottles to tasting events so they can take home their favorite vintage in their own bottle.
Here is another alternative for reducing the number of wine bottles you consume: Many growler-refill establishments, best known for dealing in beer, are expanding to include wine. States like New York and South Carolina allow growler stores to carry wine, and Oregon legalized the practice in 2013.
Artistic uses for recycling wine bottles
There are plenty of ways to put wine bottles back to use as home décor. Here are a few that look like any DIYer could tackle them:
• Spray-paint wine bottles and use them to hold flowers or branches.
• Pick up a glass-frosting kit and turn the bottle’s glass opaque. Add candles and group several together on the table.
• Add dish soap and a decanter topper designed for pouring olive oil. It makes a pretty soap dispenser by the kitchen sink.
• Turn a wine bottle upside down, add a dispenser designed for feeding hummingbirds, and wrap a hanging wire around it. Voilà! You have your own bird feeder.
These ideas will take more work and equipment:
• Wine bottles make beautiful light fixtures. They can be hung individually or grouped into elegant chandeliers, as demonstrated here
• With a cutting torch, you can cut the bottoms off wine bottles and turn them into drinking glasses. You can also cut rings from the bottles and use them for mobiles like these
from Lifting Up Spirits.
• Using a ceramic or specialized slumping kiln, it is possible to flatten wine bottles and turn them into serving plates like this one