Expert Advice

Is boxed wine better for the environment than bottled wine?

Wines sold in Tetra Pak shave a smaller ecological footprint than bottles, and many taste great.

Is boxed wine better for the environment than bottled wine?
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YES. But there are two sides to this green solution.

Look for the Tetra Pak symbol. Today, boxed wines come in packaging called Tetra Pak, an aseptic container made from sturdy cardboard outside and a thin layer of aluminum foil inside. Compared with the old bag-in-a-box packages (the wine is in a thick plastic bag inside a cardboard box), which are still found on store shelves, Tetra Pak containers leave a smaller carbon footprint. In contrast to glass wine bottles, Tetra Paks are made using much less energy, fuel, and labor. In fact, ten Tetra Paks equal one bottle of wine in terms of energy production. And because the boxes weigh less than bottles, companies who use them save on fuel costs and produce fewer carbon emissions in shipping.

Look into local recycling. Tetra Paks are made with a mix of materials, so they are not easily recycled. Find out what the rules are at your local recycling center.

Taste the difference. Many wine connoisseurs look down their noses at boxed wine. But in some blind tests, tasters have not been able to tell the boxed from the bottled. You can't age boxed wine, though. Tetra Pak containers keep out UV rays better than traditional glass wine bottles, but they can be used to store wine for only about six to nine months.

—Joseph Marcy, Ph.D., professor of food processing in the department of human nutrition, foods, and exercise, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University