Imports of wine in green bottles may be ended

Wine connoisseurs, beware: the traditional dark green, continental wine bottle could become a thing of the past as environmentalists push for alcohol to be ship-ped into Britain in 24,000 litre containers.

A huge new bottling facility is to be opened in Avonmouth, near Bristol, which green activists hope represents a solution to the problem with imported wine: the mountain of green glass which is put out for recycling once the last drops are drained from the bottle.

While Britain, the world's largest importer of wine, receives vast quantities of the bottles as it ships in a billion litres a year, there are few uses for green glass. Britain's wine industry is small and the aggregates industry does not find it economical to take the material.

The solution being put forward for some time by environmentalists is to import the wine in containers and bottle it here, so reducing the amount of green glass, reducing transport costs and increasing the potential to bottle wine in lighter bottles, manufactured in the UK.

The new Avonmouth facility is to be established by Constellation Europe, one of the continent's largest drink companies. It will have the capacity to fill around 120 million bottles of wine every year by 2009. It follows the creation last year of a plant by the glass manufacturer Quinn Glass at Elton, Cheshire. This provides potential for the production of £1.2bn per year by the new bottling method.

The push for more sustainable wine consumption in Britain has been led by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (Wrap), a non-profit company that develops markets for recycled products. It has started a new programme, GlassRite, with the industry which also encourages the use of lighter and clear bottles.

Andy Dawe, glass technology manager, estimates that an additional 10 per cent switch to bulk importing means 55,000 fewer tons of glass are imported, equivalent to 3,100 container-loads.

It remains unclear whether consumers will buy bulk imported wine in lighter-weight bottles. Psychologists at the University of Wales, Bangor, are trying to establish how people would respond to lighter or clear glass.

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