News Analysis – Could a paper wine bottle design really work?

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.

Greenbottle's paper wine bottle
Greenbottle’s paper wine bottle

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.

Martin Myerscough
Martin Myerscough

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. 

Omar Honigh

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.

Samantha Dumont
Samantha Dumont

‘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.

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  • Robert Joseph November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    I welcome this format – as an alternative to the PET 1-litre bottles we are using for our Sustainable Greener Planet wine (on sale in Asda in the UK and doing well in Finland and Holland).

    PET already has one of the same advantages (same 50g weight). PET is unbreakable (, maybe more so than the papier maché. The outer case of the papier-maché is compostable – unlike the PET, but the inner film isn’t.

    The PET can be recycled easily into fleeces and carpets and all sorts of products – provided the consumers opt to recycle.

    The PET looks identical to glass, so is better for gifting. But the papier-maché is appealingly funky.

    Both are better, I’d reckon than glass, which though recyclable, is heavy and requires huge levels of heat to produce and recycle. Worse still, our limited use of green glass in tis country means that most wine bottles (generally green) end up being shipped to Europe for recycling or go into UK landfill or as hardcore for roadbuilders.

    Both papier-maché and PET (along with pouches and new-style bag-in-box) help to shake the wine world out of its conservative complacency.

    Compostable PET is on its way – but still not yet an immediate prospect. When it does arrive, it will I’d reckon, make a lot of people rethink their allegiance to glass.

    90% of all wine is intended to be drunk within days of its purchase. Putting most of that wine in glass is a waste of resources.

  • David Shields November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    The only sentence in this that stands out to me, is the one about the foil-liner making recycling very hard. Surely that proves it is in fact not a viable solution.

  • Caroline Robinson November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Glass bottles are instantly recyclable (think milk bottles), where as plastic bottles aren’t. Making a foil, paper combo doesn’t help with recycling. Just shows that most designers don’t think cradle-to-cradle. This article should be held as an example of those who think they are being sustainable and are not. Hurray for WRAP for pointing this out.

  • Andrew Kelly November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Foil/paper combos ARE recyclable, and are WIDELY recycled according to WRAP are pointing out that it generally takes a little more effort for people to put them into the recycling system. I know that drinks cartons are not collected from the kerbside in my area, but then again neither is glass, so I personally need to make an effort to take both these items to a recycling centre.

    (Milk bottles are instantly re-usable, not recyclable. And that’s great. But who re-uses a glass wine bottle? Certainly not the wine industry.)

    What’s important is that paper/foil wine bottles would generate less carbon, in production and shipping. Is it an absolutely perfect solution? No. Is it a BETTER solution? Yes.

    Let’s also face the fact that there are a lot of careless people out there who can’t be bothered to recycle, and will put all of these materials into their rubbish bins anyway, and all will end up in landfill. Glass will never decompose. Neither will foil. But paper will within months. PET is the best-decomposing plastic at 5–10 years (in perfect conditions). Which is the best solution now?

    Aesthetically, it should be perfectly possible to design a high-end, appealing paper wine bottle. Why not? The designer’s job is all about rising to challenges like this, and changing modes of thinking through effective communication. Well-designed marketing would, I imagine, work hand-in-hand with packaging to achieve this.

  • martina November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Tap wine is the best sustainable way, cheap, no frills everyday headache free table wine. My retailer has 8 brands red, 7 white, did u forget to bring the reusable bottles? no problems he got pets or mini 3lt pet tanks 🙂

  • Anna Hansson November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    I like it.

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