Cans vs. Bottles: The Environmental Impact
Wine connoisseur Jancis Robinson makes the case for cans as an environmentally friendly alternative to glass bottles in the Weekend edition of the Financial Times, noting that “Canned wine seems to be moving rapidly from convenient novelty to a category of real interest to serious wine producers and therefore drinkers.”
She lists the environmental advantages that aluminum cans have over glass bottles, quoting a “detailed survey by the Swedish government’s alcohol monopoly Systembolaget, that a can is “28 times more efficient to recycle than bottles” and that “three-quarters of all aluminum ever mined is still in use today.”
She has heard from wine producers about the rising cost and shortage of glass bottles, which was also mentioned in my recent interviews with kombucha companies in both the Czech Republic and Spain — both noting that the war in the Ukraine had impacted their suppliers.
Indeed, the production of glass is an energy-intensive process, while aluminum compares favorably.
The production of aluminum for cans makes its own contribution to greenhouse gas emissions, but producing three 25cl aluminum cans instead of a traditional 75cl wine bottle can reduce carbon emissions by 79 per cent.
Robinson notes that cans are light, unbreakable, swiftly chilled, and easy to store and recycle.
Wine drinkers might be taken by surprise by this debate, but it’s long been a topic in the kombucha world. The Fall 2021 edition of SYMBIOSIS magazine quoted a number of brands that sell kombucha in cans.
However, we noted, not everyone is a fan:
Cans are environmentally friendly, recyclable,and acceptable in venues that don’t allow glass. Many eco-conscious brands encourage consumers to recycle glass. However, for some consumers and fermentation purists, concerns about leaching from liners mean they are unwilling to consider this option. Can kombucha in cans win over consumers?
We listed the pros and cons of each form of packaging:
Those lists could now be updated with the supply constraints on the glass side, the energy use implications listed in the FT, and the ease of chilling a can.
There are plenty of kombucha companies that champion glass, some selling premium varieties in wine-sized bottles. Many brands encourage customers to recycle their bottles. Others offer their product in cans. Perhaps the most environmentally friendly option is kombucha on tap, served in pint glasses that can be washed and refilled for each new customer.