Adopted by world leaders in 2015, the UN sustainable development goals established a series of global objectives in response to the pressing environmental, political, and economic challenges our world faces.
They comprise a total of 17 interrelated goals which constitute a masterplan to achieve a sustainable future for all.
Goal 12 focuses on ensuring responsible and sustainable production and consumption models. It is about doing more and better with less, decoupling economic growth from environmental degradation, increasing resource efficiency, and promoting sustainable lifestyles. This objective bears the most direct connection to a new economic paradigm: the Circular Economy.
How has the vinicultural sector integrated the circular economy?
Although it is not a new concept, the circular economy has generated
great interest in the wine and grape sector in recent years. One of the areas of greatest interest is how to make better use of natural resources, including water.
For wineries, water is an essential natural resource. Excessive water consumption is forcing wineries to develop recovery and management strategies. For example, Californian wineries in the Sonoma and Napa Valleys use recycled water in their irrigation systems. Likewise, production plants which consume a lot of water in their cleaning operations, such as Free Flow in California, have managed to considerably reduce the volume of their water consumption through treatment systems that recover 99% of waste water.
Waste management is another great challenge that wineries face. The circular economy provides strategies to transform and give new value to winery-generated waste. A clear example of this is Amorim, the world’s biggest cork producer, whose project Greencork gives used cork stoppers a second life by recycling and transforming them into other kinds of products like shoe soles (the Canadian ReCORK project).
Another initiative uses solid grape residues to create paper labels. The Grape Touch paper is made from 15% grape waste – pulp, seeds, and skins – which reduces the use of wood pulp and creates a very distinctive look and feel. The paper is produced by the American company Avery Dennison and joins a range of papers made from recycled food materials like corn or kiwi.
Finally, reWINE LIFE is a Catalan project that ran from 2016 to 2020 with the goal of demonstrating the viability of reusing glass bottles within the local wine industry. The recovered bottles were reused up to eight times, representing a potential saving of 170,000 kg of CO2 equivalent units and preventing 34 tonnes of waste. Although this was a local project focused on the Catalan wine industry, it demonstrated the environmental viability of reusing glass in a sector as intimately linked to the use of this type of packaging material as winemaking.
All of these examples show how adopting a circular economy approach is fundamental to achieving sustainable and responsible production models in the wine industry.