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The wine sector seeks circularity in its packaging and containers

Ecovidrio and the Spanish Wine Federation (FEV) presented at Hispack the Ecodesign Guide for the wine sector, a tool that helps wineries to apply different practices to achieve more sustainable packaging throughout the value and supply chain.

Laura García, technical director of Operations at Ecovidrio, the non-profit organisation responsible for the management and selective collection of glass packaging in Spain, presented the guide and shared her thoughts on the benefits of eco-design to move towards the circularity of packaging in the wine sector.

Why an eco-design guide?

 At FEV and Ecovidrio we believe that there is a social demand, a paradigm shift and a need to be more sustainable. In addition, there is an adaptation to the legal framework, with new European guidelines or the recent waste law. All of this leads us to work on prevention, waste reduction and better designed packaging with sustainability criteria.

In parallel, we believe that wineries need a tool to help them make decisions in this area and our guide aims to provide more information in this regard.

We must bear in mind that glass is 100% recyclable, so we start from a good base, but what we add to that glass can affect the recycling process.

How was this done?

  • Working groups were set up with all stakeholders/experts involved with the environmental improvement of packaging in mind.
  • Recommendations were developed for the environmental improvement of packaging at all stages of its life cycle.
  • Based on our diagram of how to eco-design a bottle, we analysed recyclability, social impact and life cycle analysis.
Laura García, technical director of Operations at Ecovidrio

Eco-design, the key to the whole packaging life cycle

Eco-design influences the entire packaging chain. The fact is that the decisions we make at the outset determine up to 80% of the final life cycle analysis of the packaging – from processing, through packaging and distribution, use, end-of-life and primary production again. In other words, it is a circle that we must try to make as perfect as possible from an environmental point of view.

We talk about all the packaging involved in the process: primary packaging (bottle, labelling, closure, other elements), secondary packaging (boxes, protective elements, separators…) and tertiary packaging (film, pallet…others).

Working on packaging sustainability

Actions to make packaging more sustainable:

  • Measures to eliminate packaging elements: cut out superfluous additional packaging. For example, replacing labels with techniques such as screen printing, eliminating corner pieces on tertiary packaging, eliminating extra elements such as collars, trying to get the information through other means, such as QR codes.
  • Measures to improve recyclability.
  • Unit weight reduction measures.
  • Measures to reduce the environmental footprint.
  • By 2030, packaging that is not 100% recyclable will be banned.
  • Format optimisation measures.
  • Accompanying measures to encourage the involvement of all actors in the chain, e.g. R&D departments.
  • Measures to promote re-use.
  • Promote the use of reusable packaging at primary, secondary and tertiary level, extending its useful life.

Eduardo de Diego, Communication Director of the Spanish Wine Federation, asked participants about future regulations and eco-design.

Is the wine sector ready to comply?

Gloria Martí – Head of Environment – Freixenet

It is true that there is an “avalanche” of regulations that we in our environmental department are concerned about, not knowing how to convey them to other departments. Sustainability has a cross-cutting impact on the company. It will be mandatory for everyone, from procurement to marketing, to adapt. In terms of regulations, we are ready in terms of recyclability, but in terms of reusability in our sector we still have some way to go. A balance has to be found between the environment, food safety, quality and costs.

We can also see it as an opportunity for the changes that need to be made, which are very important.

From left to right: Gloria Martí, Head of Environment at Freixenet and Eduardo de Diego, Director of Communications at the Spanish Wine Federation

Daniel Garcia – Head of Environment – Codorniu

For our part, we are also prepared in terms of recyclability and I agree that the weakest point is reuse, especially when it comes to Cava.

Xavier Giménez – BDM Product Manager – Graficas Varias

I represent the labelling industry, both its value chain and the product itself are complex. The steps that are being taken at the moment are not very significant. The label has its own resources and embellishments that make its recycling more complex. Marketing departments are the first ones that are going to have to make changes to adapt to this new regulation, and in this regard, with eco-design we are going to have to take these first steps.

The printing industry is ready but first there has to be a new way of acting to make these changes effective. Technologically, the solutions are ready, but we all have to get used to the idea that we all have to contribute to reducing the volume of waste.

The wine sector sells image and glamour to a certain extent. Can eco-design be glamorous and reconcile elegance and sustainability?

Daniel García – Head of Environment – Codorniu

We must be aware that sustainability is more important than a more premium or “beautiful” design, and so is the customer. The aim should not be glamour, but rather that the customer should attach more importance to sustainability and environmental issues than to a merely beautiful design.

Xavier Giménez – BDM Product Manager – Graficas Varias

We may run the risk of significant standardisation if we do not use design. One of the marketing demands is that the product should be embellished, that it should be attractive to the consumer. At the same time, the quality department demands robust packaging, and this sometimes results in the use of many resources and materials that make it difficult to recycle the packaging.

We always have to work from the design point of view, thinking about sustainability and meeting the needs of different departments. With ecodesign we must eliminate the superfluous and at the same time denote this point of quality. I give as an example the Moët & Chandon two-colour label. We must get away from thinking that all that is heavy is good and all that is shiny is expensive.

From left to right: Xavier Giménez, BDM Product Manager at Graficas Varias and Daniel Garcia, Head of Environment at Codorniu.

Gloria Martí – Head of Environment – Freixenet

It can be communicated in many ways beyond packaging. You can communicate a brand through elements other than just the packaging and label.

With packaging, it’s not so much about eliminating, but looking for alternatives

Are consumers’ concerns about sustainability reflected in their decision-making?

Laura García – Ecovidrio’s Technical Director of Operations

According to a report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, one in four consumers is interested in the sustainability of packaging. In recycling, more than 80% of consumers state that they recycle glass and that it is good to recycle. Making the decision is the hardest part, but we are already at the step of being aware.

Gloria Martí – Head of Environment | Freixenet

Consumers are sometimes a bit lost with all the messages we give them, they are not experts in design and they may be aware of the environment but they are not familiar with bioplastics, types of inks, different materials, etc.

I cite as an example Nutriscore, a food labelling system that allows consumers to easily and quickly assess the nutritional quality of food. I think the next step will be something similar when it comes to environmental impact information. It will then be easier for the consumer to know the degree of sustainability, as is already the case with the colours of household appliances and their consumption.

The future lies in improving communication with consumers and providing them with clear and understandable information on product sustainability and packaging. And companies and the whole chain must know how to pass on the effort they are making to the consumer, there is a lack of clear communication here because we are all transforming ourselves.

Xavier Giménez – BDM Product Manager: Graficas Varias

We are coming out of a period of major crisis and the consumer appreciates price more than recyclability. So the reason is economic and there is an additional cost to find an alternative material, but we must make the consumer see that this additional cost is necessary.

It is interesting what is being done with Smart labelling and QR coding. The fact is that the label has only evolved in terms of media, otherwise it is the same. On the other hand, with the QR coding system it is possible to have product traceability, access to content, security of authenticity… Advances of this type will facilitate the work of being able to transfer the new reality, rather than a change in the use of new materials. Changing this way of communicating is going to be very interesting.

Cristina Benavides, Hispack partner