Traverse City, Mich.
A new $100,000, 1,800-pound bottle sanitizer from Niagara Systems LLC will speed up the process at Evergreen Bottles in Traverse City, Mich.
—Despite concerted efforts from the glass industry to encourage the recycling of bottles and other glass packaging, a sizeable proportion still ends up in landfills instead. Lisa Carlson, a nurse and entrepreneur in Traverse City, Mich., believes that only 30%-40% of wine, beer and champagne bottles are actually recycled.
With some 29 wineries currently operating in Traverse City and nearby Leelanau County (and 118 throughout Michigan, according to WinesVinesDATA), Carlson decided to provide an alternative. Last year, she opened Evergreen Bottle Co.
, which collects and sanitizes used bottles, then makes them available for re-use by the originating wineries or others.
The concept is not new, but it has not previously been available in the Midwest. In the past two years, Wines & Vines
has reported on Pend’ d’Oreille Winery
’s refillable bottle program
in Sandpoint, Idaho; a multi-winery project in Oliver, B.C., and Wine Bottle Renew
’s ambitious new plant
in Napa County, Calif. In the green-packaging environment, local availability is paramount: Transporting used bottles to and from distant destinations would be counterproductive.
Transportation to Evergreen’s 2,700-square-foot warehouse is handled by a contract with Bay Area Recycling for Charities, which schedules pickups from wineries including 2,200-case Circa Estate
, wine and beer festivals, tasting rooms and nearby restaurants. Consumers can also drop off their bottles at the site and, Carlson said, “Many businesses choose to transport their own bottles to the warehouse. This ensures the bottles are theirs and decreases shipping costs.”
Most bottles arrive at Evergreen in large pallet boxes, and then they are sorted by types and colors. “The large number of vineyards in the Grand Traverse area simplified a lot of the sorting,” Carlson told Wines & Vines
. “There are many that use the same bottles for a variety of different wines. Rieslings, for example, are very common in this region; so is the use of an amber, green or golden-brown Riesling bottle.”
Although many wineries prefer their own unique bottles, “With the number of wine, art and music festivals in the Northern Michigan area, there are more bottles than one would realize.…From restaurants, bars and convention business, lots of 200-300 bottles of the same line are possible.” She added, “Many vineyards have wines that do not have a dedicated bottle, so whatever is cheapest works.” Currently, Evergreen has some 90,000 bottles in stock.
Not all bottles are equal
During the past year, Carlson has researched different bottles and labels to learn which must go through a label-stripping process. “I have worked with a couple of label manufacturers and, they have come up with labels that stick when applied and come off easier,” she said. Silk-screened bottles are returned to the company of origin. “I could put a chemical in that would remove the paint, but that really isn’t very green,” she noted.
Last week, Carlson took delivery of a new $100,000 sanitizing machine from Ohio-based Niagara Systems LLC. “They have produced another machine for removing labels from Champagne, and it works marvelously,” she said.
The glass bottle industry supports bottle-refilling efforts. Jay Scripter, VP of sustainability for manufacturer Owens-Illinois
, pointed out, “The benefits of refilling are pretty immense. With the refillable model, if a bottle is used 20-30 times, it can drop the carbon footprint to zero.” He noted, too, that new technology can sense contaminants within bottles, to assuage any concerns about purity. “We’re very excited about getting glass to its rightful place in the sustainability discussion,” he said.