The wine industry is one of the major economic engines of the Okanagan and Similkameen valleys. It occupies over 8,000 acres of land and produces over 80% of all the wine produced in British Columbia.
It is also a major tourist attraction with over a million visitors a year.
Most of the wine produced is sold in glass bottles, although boxed wine (really a plastic bag with a spout contained in a cardboard box) is gaining traction in the market.
Glass bottles are the ideal container for wine.
They are chemically inert and easily sealed allowing the wine to age and evolve without influence. In addition, they are easy to transport and store.
While wine bottles require a deposit upon purchase and are refundable in BC, the fact is that virtually none are recycled. And this represents a major challenge for the industry.
Many audits (mostly in the US) of the carbon footprint of wine production have blamed glass bottles, from production to delivery, for the largest percentage of greenhouse gas emissions from wine production. ‘industry.
Making glass requires an enormous amount of heat and energy, and bottled wine, with all the necessary packaging to protect the containers, are heavy loads that require a lot of fuel to ship.
What’s even worse is that while empty bottles in BC can be redeemed, they are mostly crushed and not turned into new containers, so every year the bottle production and its thermal pollution repeat themselves.
An even more serious problem is that there are no wine bottle producers in Canada. Supplies are obtained in the United States or China.
And, this year alone, the price of wine bottles has increased by 40% to 70%. Obviously the industry is concerned about that.
For consumers, bottled wine is expected and receptivity to alternative packaging, including boxed or canned wine, has been lukewarm at best.
Alternate packaging is certainly unacceptable for wines priced at $45 or more.
So what can industry do? This packaging problem is not unique to glass and the wine industry.
Many products are facing requirements to rid their products of plastic containers. Grocery stores are under pressure to stop using plastic bags
I think what might help is provincially funded research to develop substitutes for glass bottles. Why the province?
Well, they are the main beneficiaries of wine sales in his jurisdiction due to the markup imposed on alcoholic beverages, so they have a strong interest in finding solutions.
Other provinces, even those without a wine industry, also face this incentive.
A simple challenge would be to develop a one liter wine box that can fit in a refrigerator.
It may not have the glamor of a bottle, but after all, it’s the product, not the packaging, that really matters. Provincial governments could also reduce the markup on boxed wine.
A radical idea, I know, but it’s time to consider the environment and think of consumers as more than just sources of income.
On a completely different topic, my column from last week describing the treatment that
Dr. Malvinder Hoonjan has received a host of calls from Interior Health. I urge patients who are concerned about Dr. Hoonjan’s treatment to write to the Minister of Health, the Hon. Adrian Dix, and ask him to investigate what happened. The mailing address is: Department of Health, PO Box 9050, STN Prov. Gov’t, Victoria, BC V8W 9E2 and the phone number is (250) 953-3547. The email is [email protected] Dr. Hoonjan deserves your support, so write or call the minister today.
David Bond is a retired banking economist living in Kelowna.