Marks & Spencer's mini wine range goes a shade greener with plastic bottles

The supermarket is the first in the UK to convert its entire range of 25cl bottles to an environmentally friendly plastic

Small bottles of wine, often provided as an in-flight tipple, will this week become a shade greener. Marks & Spencer is the first UK retailer to convert its entire range of 25cl still wine bottles from glass to environmentally friendly plastic, meeting growing consumer demand for lighter and "unbreakable" containers.

M&S reports that sales of 25cl bottles (the equivalent of two standard glasses) have rocketed as the warm weather encouraged shoppers to buy them as a convenient drink for picnics. It typically sells around 100,000 mini bottles a week, and last week sales were up 26% year-on-year.

The new bottles are 88% lighter than glass bottles, less energy is required to manufacture a polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottle than a glass bottle and the lightweight bottle reduces distribution emissions. The company estimates that the switch will save it 525 tonnes of packaging a year.

Sainsbury's has already introduced PET for standard 75cl bottles but not yet for its small bottle range, which covers 32 wines. Waitrose is also launching a Shiraz and Chenin Blanc in a 75cl plastic bottle. The new PET plastic, screw-top wine bottles will launch at the end of the May at stores near key festivals and outdoor events.

The Waitrose wine buyer Nick Room said: "Wine-drinkers can be quite precious about compromising on taste and quality, which is something we have been very careful to ensure doesn't happen with the new plastic packaging. In fact, the bottles actually have an extended shelf-life guaranteed for 12 months and proven for 24 months, highlighting that the product is as good as glass for wine quality and 100% recyclable which is an added benefit to the environment."

The wine industry has been working to reduce packaging, in particular with the government's waste agency Wrap, through its Glassrite project. Last year, the UK imported over 1.7bn 75cl bottles of wine which equates to over 600,000 tonnes of packaging.

A spokesman for the Wine and Spirits Trade Association (WSTA) said: "There's clearly an appetite for buying wine in different quantities and we know from our own research that consumers are open to new forms of packaging. Many parts of the industry are looking at ways of reducing their environmental impact. Given that most wine sold in the UK is imported it also makes sound economic sense to look at lightweight glass or alternatives."


Rebecca Smithers, consumer affairs correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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