Design and sustainability experts say designs for a ready-for-production paper wine bottle, unveiled this week, are progressive and practical, although questions of aesthetics remain.
The idea was conceived by ‘inveterate tinker, engineer and inventor’ Martin Myerscough, who says he founded his company Greenbottle company after a fortuitous trip to the dump.
‘I saw all these plastic bottles there – which only have a 14-day lifecycle – but might spend 200 years in landfill,’ says Myerscough, who was also inspired by a papier-mâché balloon his son had made.
Myerscough initially developed a paper milk carton, which he says was picked up by Asda, selling 100 000 in its West Country stores.
The wine bottle design followed, and Myerscough says a manufacturing agreement is being discussed with a large Yorkshire-based bottle manufacturer.
The bottle features a foil bladder within the paper exterior – if you were wondering about saturation – in the same way a wine box does.
Myerscough says the paper bottle weighs just 50g instead of the 500g of a glass wine bottle, and has ten per cent of the carbon footprint of glass. Its dimensions mean it can still fit on to a normal production line.
Although recycling glass has become habitual, and appears around us as a ubiquitous recycling icon, for collection en masse in bins and bottle banks, Myerscough says its effectiveness is questionable.
‘We’re net importers of wine bottles and it’s not worth shipping the glass back so it ends up here as road aggregate,’ he says.
The Waste Resources Action Programme has welcomed the Greenbottle design, but suggested that mixing the paper outer with the foil inner might cause recycling issues.
WRAP says ‘[We are always looking] to encourage novel and innovative new packaging designs. WRAP’s view is that any new packaging material should be as easy as possible to recycle, and mixing materials such as different types of paper and metal can cause problems when it comes to composting or recycling.’
Omar Honigh, managing partner of Studio Hansa, specialises in wine branding and also brands and produces his own Hungarian wine Royal Somlo.
He says wine companies need to ensure ‘there is added value from the brand experience of its products, and packaging is one of the reasons people remember you’.
The Greenbottle design ‘is not a premium product’ he adds, ‘but from a design perspective it would be interesting to make this look more appealing – it doesn’t have to look ugly. People have done some really innovative things with tetra packs.’
Myerscough concedes that aesthetic improvements could be made. ‘It only has to be conservative to begin with. We can be more dynamic with colour and form. The tools are quite cheap and wine-sellers are always looking for something more up to date.’
Honigh is largely in favour of the design though. ‘It’s easy to open and the conduction means it will cool very fast in the fridge if you’re bottling white wine – although that does mean it warms very fast.
‘It’s cheap, easy to produce and shift in large volumes, it’s very modern, would work well in supermarkets, and it’s much more environmentally friendly then glass. There is a market sector for this. It’s just a case of convincing them,’ he says.
Sustainable branding experts recongnise this. Creative partner at Dragon Rouge Samantha Dumont says, ‘I like it conceptually. Would I buy it? Possibly. To me it feels more appropriate for everyday wine rather then a good quality wine with a higher price tag.
‘Gifting is a challenge. People would need to think of it as being different in a good way and not at all compromising on quality.’
A radical change in convention might be possible in the wine industry Dumont feels, just as 20 years ago the labelling of New World wines found a new graphic approach and broke away from stark black type, gold foil and a white label ‘with pictures of chateaus or grapes,’ she says.
‘I could see this being an excellent and motivating solution for 25cl bottles on things like picnics where weight is always a concern – as is rubbish – and smaller size bottles are drunk more quickly, so less need to keep the product chilled as long,’ she adds.