Lighter Champagne bottles, and biomass potential

Published by Sally on April 24, 2010

The Champenois have officially launched a lighter glass bottle, aimed at cutting carbon emissions. They’ve calculated a reduction from 900 grams per bottle to 835 grams could result in an 8,000 tonne reduction in annual carbon emissions.

In 2002, the Champagne region undertook an environmental impact assessment, from which a target reduction of carbon emissions by 25% by 2020 has been set, and a reduction of 75% by 2050.

Lighter Champagne bottle

Lighter Champagne bottle

Laurent Panigaï, head of viticulture at the CIVC (comité interprofessionnel du vin de champagne) said “the carbon footprint was studied, the whole footprint including external inputs into production.” They found that growing grapes and making wine is only one quarter of the carbon footprint, but that packaging accounted for a third of the footprint in 2003, and of this third, bottles alone represented 17%.

To achieve the target level of reduction, Panigaï said “we set up a climate action plan with five directions [buildings viticulture, oenology/services, transport and multi-disciplinary projects]. We have 17 R&D programmes, with some 40 initiatives under way or in the pipeline.”

The first of these is the lighter weight glass bottle, which has actually been in development for the last decade, before the sustainability agenda came to the urgent fore. The quick win for producers, which the CIVC hope will result in deep uptake, includes the fact that no new cellar equipment is needed. The new bottle is ready to go. It’s also pretty much the same shape, and has plenty of pressure resistance for the bubbles.

Panigaï said some bottles are already on the market, and the “target for next tirage [bottling with yeast/sugar for the second fermentation] of 2011, is that 80-90% of Champenois will use these bottles.”

If the overall target for lightweight bottles is met, i.e. everyone in the industry uses them, this will shave of nearly 4.5% of the targeted 25%. It’s a good start, but much more needs to be done in the coming decade.

One of the other potential opportunities is re-directing the annual prunings. Champagne produces 150,000 tonnes of waste wood biomass of prunings each year. Panigaï said “two-thirds [the canes] is useful for our soils as a good mulching. But one third is lost, as trunks and cordons are burned.” He said, if 50,000 tonnes could be transferred into local biogas creation, this would account for a 5% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, so a little more than the lighter bottles. But, he said, this is a mid-term solution.

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