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Reuse and recycle old wine bottles

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Reuse and recycle old wine bottles to rein in the amount of reusable waste entering landfills and lessen the need for the energy-intensive production of glass bottles made from virgin materials.

How to recycle old wine bottles

Whether or not your local community has a glass bottle recycling program will largely determine how you recycle or reuse your wine bottles. Start by contacting your local government or department of sanitation to find out whether there are recycling facilities in your area. Some of the more common recycling options include:

  • Curbside pick-up programs: If your community offers a curbside recycling program, use it. Nationwide, there are 9,000 curbside recycling programs and 500 recovered material facilities. Check with your local government or department of sanitation regarding specific recycling services and guidelines. Some facilities require that you sort glass by color, since mixed glass will lower the value of resulting cullet. So, if need be, don't let brown beer bottles and green wine bottles commingle even if it seems that Sad Adams and René Junot are fast friends.
  • Drop-off centers: If you don't receive curbside recycling, seek out a local recycling drop-off center which you can find through Earth 911.
  • Bottle returns: Cart your bottles of spent Shiraz and Sauvignon Blanc to a redemption center and/or return them directly to a retail store for a deposit refund. A handful of states have Bottle Bills, also known as beverage container deposit laws, that complement curbside and other recycling programs.
  • Multi-unit dwelling recycling programs: If you live in an apartment building without a designated area to dispose of recyclable items, be proactive and speak with your building's owner or superintendent about shoring up recycling efforts. And why not offer him or her a bottle of organic or biodynamic vino to sweeten the deal?
  • Cork recycling: Don't forget those corks! Send them to Yemm & Hart, a green materials company that uses old cork to produce a variety of products.

You can avoid the hassle of recycling your glass by putting away that corkscrew altogether and opting for the box. Although boxed wine may make staunch oenophiles cringe, it's a much more eco-friendly way (the boxes and wine-containing pouches are more ecologically sound to produce than glass and their lighter weight reduces both travel-associated carbon emissions and landfill bulk) to sip the sauce. In fact, in Australia and Sweden more than half of wine consumed is from boxes.[1] Keep that grape-craving eye out for such brands as:

How to reuse empty wine bottles

Feeling crafty after that glass of Cabernet? Whether you drink wines from Alsace or make your own in Akron, Ohio, giving a second life to spent bottles in a creative, decor-minded fashion is a great green way to spruce up your home or apartment. So go ahead and reuse that double magnum of fancy French bubbly leftover from your wedding as a vase, or give your kitchen a romantic Italian restaurant vibe by placing candles in that old bottle of Chianti.

Alternatively, if you have a bottle that is dear to your heart, head to The Flat Bottle Company where a group of UK-based artisans will transform it into an object d'art like a dish, candle holder, or clock. For more ideas, both purely aesthetic and utilitarian, before you get crackin', check out:

Reusing and recycling old wine bottles helps you go green because…

  • They would otherwise end up in landfills. It takes a glass bottle about 1 million years to break down in a landfill.[2]
  • The amount of energy and resources used to create glass bottles from recycled materials is less than the amount needed to create bottles from virgin materials. Less energy means less pollution.

According to reports published by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2006, over 13 million tons of glass containers (including beer, juice, soda, and other bottles) were disposed of in the United States; 2.9 million tons were recovered for recycling.[3] It is estimated that an individual glass bottle, when recycled, saves enough energy to light a 100-watt bulb for four hours.[4]

Glass is composed of natural resources—sand and limestone—yet its production is simpler and uses less energy than aluminum production. Glass bottles, however, are heavier than lightweight aluminum and are therefore more costly to transport. This means more fossil fuels are consumed and more pollution is generated in transporting them. The recycling of glass is also less efficient—and requires more energy—than the recycling of aluminum. While recycled aluminum cans reenter the market in as few as six weeks, the process takes longer for glass bottles. Creating glass from recycled materials, however, does require 30 percent less energy than creating glass from virgin materials.[2]

Bottle Bills

Bottle Bills—deposit-refund systems in place in 11 states—help to extend the life of beverage containers through recycling and reusing. The system is simple: a retailer purchases beverages from a distributor and a deposit is paid for each container. Consumers buy beverages and pay the retailer a deposit (in most states, five cents), then return empty beverage containers to the retailer or a redemption center and the deposit is refunded. The retailer recoups the deposit from the distributor and, in most states with bottle bills, a handling fee of less than three cents. When deposits are left unclaimed they are either returned to the distributor or become property of the state where they are often put toward environmental and recycling programs.

Bottle bills have dramatically decreased beverage container litter rates, with seven states claiming reductions of 69 to 84 percent after the implementation of deposit-refund systems.[5] Amazingly, Denmark has a beverage container deposit-refund program that boasts a recovery rate of 99.5 percent.[6] The following US states have bottle bills and accept the return of glass wine bottles:

  • Iowa:5¢.
  • Maine: 15¢.
  • Vermont:15¢.


  • cullet: Recycled glass that is crushed and refined at a recovered material facility. It is then sold to glass manufacturers and combined with sand, soda ash, and limestone to create new glass products. Cullet with different colors of glass mixed together is considered low quality and used for products like fiberglass insulation and decorative tile. High quality cullet contains a single color and is used to produce containers and other products.

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