The Tasting Panel magazine

April 2010

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ine bottles. They are consumers’ preferred choice for wine packaging, in addition to a host of other products, and once they have served their purpose, most find their way into a blue recycling bin. While we might be aware that they, like all glass containers, can be easily recycled, the sustainable production of glass is linked directly to our recycling efforts. Glass is termed “endlessly recyclable,” and the more often it’s recycled, the less impact its production has on the environment. W Recycled glass, or cullet (a word derived from the French for neck), makes up an average of 43 percent of every wine bottle produced by Owens-Illinois, Inc. (O-I), a company that began manufacturing glass bottles in 1903 and now supplies more than 50 percent of the glass on today’s global market. In California, O-I recycles more than 1.6 million pounds of glass each day at plants in Oakland, Tracy and Los Angeles. The company’s Oakland plant, one of 19 nationwide, special- izes in making wine bottles, almost 100 percent of which are distributed regionally within a 250-mile radius. “O-I may be recognized as the technology leader in the industry, but there’s still quite a bit of art that goes into making wine bottles,” says Loren Johnson, plant manager for Oakland. “We have treasured the esthetic beauty of glass since the Phoenicians unlocked the secret of melting sand more than 3,000 years ago—and wine bottles are no exception.” As concern for the environment and green practices play a larger role in the way wineries do business, many are simplifying their glass packaging in a number of ways: by moving to lighter weight bottles or “light- weighting,” reducing the number of custom shapes they use in favor of stock bottles and sourcing their inven- tory regionally. The lightest 750 ml. wine bottle produced by O-I weighs in at 11.6 ounces—a far cry from the industry’s average bottle weight of about 23 ounces. “The lighter bottles are just as strong and perform just as well as heavier containers,” notes Stan Gossett, Vice President and Wine Category Director at O-I. “Many companies begin by reducing their bottle weights a few ounces and, as glass technology improves, they continue in that direction.” Gossett points to the broad selection of colors, bottle shapes and neck finishes that O-I currently offers, which makes sourcing bottles regionally particu- larly efficient for producers in California. At O-I’s high-tech plant in Oakland, where three furnaces are firing glass around the clock, proprietary technology is at work to optimize production and reduce energy use. “Glass manufacturing is an oxida- tive system; we use air-breathing furnaces, but now we’re making the same amount of glass with much less energy,” says Bill Boscacci, Environmental, Health & Safety Director for O-I. “California has the strictest standards for emissions in the U.S., and the particulate matter that we capture from furnace emissions is recycled back into our production.” O-I works with companies like PG&E in meeting their aggressive goals of reducing energy use by as much as 50 percent in the near future. O-I’s proprietary forming technology produces lightweight wine bottles that are as strong as their much heavier counterparts. Wine bottles undergo rigorous optical and physical inspections for quality; any rejects are recycled back into the system. april 2010 / the tasting panel / 95 CREDIT: PHOTO COURTESY OF O-I CREDIT: PHOTO COURTESY OF O-I PHOTO: DEBORAH PARKER WONG

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