Ontario vineyard offers wine in reused bottles cleaned by Kitchener company

A vineyard in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., has bottled a 2021 field blend wine in reused bottles for the first time.Stratus Vineyards collaborated on the intiative with Circulr in Kitchener, Ont., a company that provides reusable packaging like jars for stores and other retailers.Stratus gathered used wine bottles from customers and collected bottles from the winery’s tasting room, then gave them to Circulr to figure out how to properly process them so they could be used again.”This has never really been done before in Ontario,” Circulr co-founder Tyler De Sousa said in an interview on CBC Kitchener-Waterloo’s The Morning Edition.”We had conversations, I think over two years ago now, about how we wanted to do this and it was something we wanted to pursue.”Stratus collected 50 cases of bottles for Circulr to test. They had to figure out what could be done with the screw caps, how to properly wash and sanitize the bottles and how to remove the labels.”The labels that are on there … they’ve sort of been built up over years and years to be bulletproof pretty much to make sure that they don’t come off after a decade or two of aging. So it’s a long process to get the labels off,” he said.”Once the label’s off, the hard part is done.”WATCH | Ontario winery to resuse bottles:Ontario winery to resuse bottlesAn Ontario wine company has announced its going to release a new wine in bottles that are being used a second time. A Kitchener company is helping to sterilize them and return them into circulation. CBC K-W’s Craig Norris speaks with Dean Stoyka of Stratus Vineyards in Niagara-on-the-Lake and Tyler De Sousa, co-founder of Circulr in Kitchener.European case study had promising resultsCurrently in Ontario wine bottles are recycled through blue bin systems or by people who return them to The Beer Store, which runs a recycling program.The practice of reusing wine bottles is more popular in Europe. The group Zero Waste Europe reported in 2021 that as part of a reWINE case study, 82,239 glass bottles were reused by wineries, which saved an estimated 171,058 tonnes of CO2, which is the equivalent to the amount of emissions a car would produce while travelling 11 times around the world.The case study was done in Spain by the company Rezero between 2016 and 2020 and involved 99 stakeholders, from wineries to stores and restaurants and municipal waste collection points.Marta Beltran, project director at Rezero, said in the 2021 release about the case study that the project “clearly shows the positive impact of wine bottle reuse on climate change mitigation and is key for the transition of the sector towards zero waste.”But, Beltran added, in order to make wine bottle reuse successful there would need to be an investment in the tools to make it happen and government regulations would need to be in place.Advocacy group applauds moveReusing wine bottles is an idea Ashley Wallis applauds. She’s the associate director of Environmental Defence, and the group wrote a paper in 2011 advocating for refillable wine bottles in Ontario.”Despite nearly 80 per cent of glass wine and liquor bottles being returned to The Beer Store through the province’s highly successful deposit return program, these bottles have not up to this point been reused. This is a missed opportunity, and one we’re happy to see local wineries, like Stratus, address,” Wallis said in an email to CBC News.She said it takes a lot of energy and resources to make products that are used briefly before they’re thrown away.”We need to massively reduce the amount of single-use products and packaging in our economy, and favour non-toxic, low-carbon reuse systems. Reusing glass wine bottles, at a regional or local level, is just the kind of initiative we need more of,” she said.Wallis also said there’s no reason to stop at wine bottles. Environmental Defence has been calling on the province to broaden the deposit return program to include pop, juice and water containers since 2014, she said.A broader program “would make it easier for companies to sell non-alcoholic drinks in reusable containers, and keep billions of single-use bottles and cans out of our environment, landfills, and incinerators.”‘Have to start asking questions’Dean Sloyka is the winemaker at Stratus Vineyards and says many wineries want to go on “the path of least resistance” and that’s the usual way to recycling bottles.”The thought of going through all these extra steps is, for a lot of companies like, well, why would I do that?” he said.”With our sustainable mindset, we kind of have to start asking questions,” he added. “Can we continue to go down this path where we’re using these bottles once and then they’re sometimes being recycled, but usually not being reused almost ever?”Suzanne Janke is the estate director at Stratus Vineyards and says reusing bottles is another step in their commitment to environmental stewardship. The winery earned a LEED certification for their full facility in 2005 when it opened. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental design and is a global rating system that certifies green buildings.”From that day forward, we’ve engaged in all kinds of different activities from the way we service our guests, the way we form the vineyard, the way we make our wines in terms of being as mindful of the environment as possible, obviously, because wine comes from the land,” she said.”We have a very obvious and inherent responsibility to make our work this way.”LISTEN | Kitchener company Circulr works with stores, businesses to recycle jars:The Morning Edition – K-W6:35Kitchener company Circulr works with stores, businesses to recycle jarsA growing Kitchener business is hoping to get you to buy items in their reusable jars – then return them to the store where you bought them. Circulr co-founder Tyler De Sousa says the company was started in late 2020 and since then, has grown to stores throughout Waterloo region and in Toronto.’Something really big’Sloyka says they have plans to grow from 50 cases to 200 cases this year. He said they haven’t found an alternative to the wine bottle that allows wine to age the same way, “so we’re really married to the wine bottle.”Knowing that, he wants to see the idea of reusing bottles take off across the province.”The idea is to grow it more and more with Circulr until we can maybe find a standardized bottle and get a bunch of wineries going on,” he said.”Ideally our entire production and all of Ontario — we have a really small, tight-knit community  … we’re kind of perfectly set up to sort of band together and take initiative where there’s bottles being used by the wineries.”De Souza says he expects their Kitchener facility “is going to see a lot of bottles in the next 12 months” as more wineries and vineyards express interest in the idea of reusing their bottles, too.”There’s a lot of interest in that movement,” he said, adding Circulr has talked to two dozen wineries who seemed open to the idea of what the company is doing.”We’re kind of just getting our stuff together,” he said, adding Stratus and Circulr are excited to “start the ball rolling on something really big.”

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