Words by Mike Wilson, Sustainability Lead
As Sustainability Lead at Garçon Wines, a key responsibility of mine is to ensure that we are able to deliver a product that is equally environmentally friendly, consumer centric and financially cost effective throughout the supply chain for our customers. Designing our flat, 100% recycled PET bottles with recyclability in mind plays a key role in helping to achieve this.
To understand this in more detail, and in celebration of Global Recycling Day, I’ll be taking a deeper dive into recycling, how Garçon Wines plays our part, and what the future of this process looks like.
Why is recycling important?
In a world of finite resources, we must choose to ensure we keep as much of the material we already use in circulation. Recycling provides an opportunity to capture these valuable materials and provide an additional planetary resource, which is now being referred to as our “Seventh” resource.
This “Seventh” resource of recyclables supplies 40% of the world’s total raw materials, such as recycled plastics, aluminium, or paper. It also has a significant benefit in reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Every year, recyclables save over 700 million tonnes of CO2 emissions. This is achieved by utilising pre-existing material as the feedstock, which doesn’t require the same intensity of energy usage to produce, resulting in lower associated GHG emissions.
How do we play our part?
At Garçon Wines, we see the huge benefit of recycled content, as our bottles are made from 100% recycled PET (rPET). By choosing to use rPET instead of virgin PET, not only do we give a new life to recycled material, we avoid the reliance on virgin materials. rPET has a much lighter environmental footprint versus virgin PET, with rPET requiring 90% less energy to produce and causing 79% less GHG emissions versus the production of virgin PET.
Using rPET also ensures that our bottle is made from one of the most widely recycled materials on the planet. For instance, across the UK every single local authority collects PET plastic through household kerbside collections. It is crucial to ensure packaging used by our end consumer is not only designed for life in service but also for end of life.
Our bottles have been designed with this end of life in mind, to ensure they are fully recyclable within the PET recycling stream. This is possible as the cap and label elements are separated off during processing. PET bottles are often mechanically flaked before washing, which means the bottle, cap, and label material separation occurs within the float tank stage of processing. The heavier PET flakes sink, while the lighter cap material (polypropylene and polyethylene) and label material (polypropylene) float. These separated materials are then collected for reprocessing. We also accommodate the use of other material, such as paper labels, which don’t inhibit recycling as they are removed during the caustic wash process. We also accommodate the use of other material, such as paper labels, which don’t inhibit recycling as they are removed during the caustic wash process.
In addition to our product design, it is crucial to work closely with the wider recycling ecosystem. This is an important aspect of our responsibility in ensuring we learn from the invaluable insights from the experience of local recycling organisations, such as testing our bottle through real life material recovery facilities (MRFs). Across the UK and Nordics, we have close working relationships with recycling partners. We are members of RECOUP in the UK and have achieved recyclability approval within the Deposit Return Schemes (DRS) in the Nordic markets.
The future of recycling?
Globally, there are significant opportunities to establish national recycling infrastructures to not only capture these valuable resources, but also prevent it from leaking into the natural environment. This will not only require investment and involvement of governments but also consumer education about the benefits of recycling.
Closer to home, the rollout of Deposit Return Schemes (DRS) across the UK and Ireland is expected over the next 2 to 3 years. While these schemes may have some challenges, there is clear proof from well-run and long established DRS in the Nordics that they can play a vital role in capturing valuable packaging materials. For example, in Finland they collect 90% of PET bottles!
It is also important to highlight the technology behind recycling. Across the planet, mechanical recycling is currently the most financially viable method at scale. However, as advances in chemical and enzymatic recycling continue, there is definitely the opportunity to have the various methods complement one another. This will allow for capturing of the most valuable materials, but also some of the trickier materials to recycle, expanding the market for recycled content and reducing the volume of materials being sent to landfill or incinerated.
Fundamentally, moving away from the linear, take-make-waste model, and adopting a more circular approach of reusing materials will help us move towards improving our planetary health.
There is by no means one singular silver bullet solution to globally improving waste management infrastructures and elevating the role of recycling. However, we can all play our part in making a difference and I believe raising awareness of the importance of recycling through celebrating Global Recycling Day can help us take a step in the right direction.
Finally, one key top tip on this day – give it a rinse!
For any food contact packaging, be sure to clean it prior to placing it in your recycling bin. Doing so will help increase the chance of it being fully recycled by reducing the possibility of contaminating the recycling process.