Expert Advice

Is boxed wine better for the environment than bottled wine?

Wine packaged in paperboard is an eco-conscious choice. But don’t make room in your wine cellar or recycling bin until you read this.

Is boxed wine better for the environment than bottled wine?
Pin it Gary Taxali

The most recent boxed wine option uses packaging called Tetra Pak, an aseptic container made from sturdy paperboard outside and a layer of aluminum foil inside. The old bagin- a-box packages (with wine in a thick plastic bag inside a cardboard box) are still available for some wines, but Tetra Pak containers leave a smaller carbon footprint on the planet. They are made using much less energy, fuel and labor than glass bottles. In fact, 10 Tetra Paks equal one bottle of wine in terms of energy production. And, because Tetra Paks weigh less than bottles (and bag-box packaging that holds less than 1.5 liters), companies that use them save on fuel costs and produce fewer carbon emissions in shipping. Additionally, the Tetra Pak design uses fewer materials for its spout by incorporating a small threaded neck and cap (similar to the small, round caps that top the opening on some milk containers); the spout on the bag-box packaging is usually bulky and expensive to produce.
Research recycling Tetra Paks are made with a mix of materials, so they are not easily recycled. Find out what the rules are at your neighborhood 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 once it’s packaged, 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 and head of the food science and technology department at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg.