Why isn’t wine bottled in recycled glass?

Ask Dr Vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. And don't worry, I'm no wine snob—you can also ask me those "dumb questions" you're too embarrased to ask your wine geek friends! I hope you find my answers educational, empowering and even amusing. And don't forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics.

Dear Dr. Vinny,

Why isn’t wine bottled in recycled glass?

—Kirsten, The Netherlands

Dear Kirsten,

While some wine bottles are indeed made from recycled glass, it’s true that many are not, and the production of a new glass bottle is responsible for a large part of a bottle of wine’s carbon footprint. The good news is that glass is recyclable, and in the Netherlands, more than 90 percent of glass containers end up being recycled. That’s far more than here in the U.S., where various agencies report that only about a quarter to a third of our glass containers are recycled. America needs to do a better job of going Dutch!

One of the reasons that wine bottles in particular are sometimes not recycled is because they’re often dyed green or brown, and they need to be sorted by color, if not by the consumer then by the recycling facility. Additionally, glass is heavy, and that makes transporting it to sometimes-far-away recycling facilities expensive if not cost-prohibitive.

After being collected, glass bottles are crushed and ground into what’s called “cullet,” and this ground glass is sold back to glass manufacturers to be melted into new products, including new bottles. “New” glass can contain as much as 70 percent cullet.

For more insight, I spoke to Sarah Bar, project manager at Gallo Glass Company (founded in 1958 by vintners Ernest and Julio Gallo). Gallo Glass is the largest consumer of recycled glass in California, purchasing more than 30 percent of all the glass recycled in the state, and Bar says that on average, the bottles for E.&J. Gallo's wines are made from about 50 percent recycled glass. “Any time I can talk about recycling, I’m a happy camper,” she said.

She explained that glass manufacturers actually prefer to use recycled glass. Cullet not only requires less energy to melt, but melting it also generates fewer emissions. “Once you melt that recycled bottle for the first time, we no longer release the emissions from raw materials,” Bar explained. “So the more we use recycled bottles, the better the impact on the environment.”

—Dr. Vinny

Environment Recycling Ask Dr. Vinny

More In Dr. Vinny

Do wine-preservation devices like Coravin actually work?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny offers advice on using the Coravin and tips for other …

Jun 26, 2019

Which sparkling wines are made from Chardonnay?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny offers clues for figuring out a sparkling wine's grape …

Jun 24, 2019

At what point of color saturation does a rosé become a red wine?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains how rosés are made.

Jun 21, 2019

What kind of grape is Pouilly-Fumé?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains the wines from this Loire Valley region.

Jun 19, 2019

Is it true that you can clean a red wine stain with white wine? What's the best way to clean a wine stain?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny offers some tried and true methods and advice for …

Jun 17, 2019

How long will an unopened bottle of Champagne stay good?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains how sparkling wine ages.

Jun 14, 2019
WineRatings+

WineRatings+

Xvalues

Xvalues

Restaurant Search

Restaurant Search