How can we make up for the lack of glass bottle recycling in some countries? In Singapore, the spirits brand Proof & Company has designed new packaging to replace glass bottles with the first reusable metal spirit bottle.
"The ecoSPIRITS solution took three years of work and research."
Who’d have thought that a bottle of rum, vodka or whisky would cause environmental problems? And yet, as in other sectors, the spirits industry is going into action to save resources – as pioneered by the spirits distributor Proof & Company.
Based in Singapore and operating in Asia and the Pacific, the company decided to tackle the problem head-on by addressing the issue of glass bottles in the liquor and spirits supply chain.
Manufacturers use glass bottles to transport spirits to retail outlets. These are very heavy and increase transport-related pollution: the heavier the goods, the more fuel the truck carrying them will consume.
"In this industry, we celebrate provenance and origin. But unfortunately this means spirits must travel tremendous distances to bring them to the bartenders and consumers," notes Paul Gabie, co-founder of Proof & Company in an interview with Drink Magazine Asia.
There’s another problem too: recycling the bottles. Even though glass is a 100% recyclable material, not all of them necessarily go into the recycling bin. With a lack of dedicated plants or a lack of public awareness, a significant proportion of glass bottles are not currently reused.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency across the pond, only 39% of wine and liquor bottles there are recycled. In Hong Kong, according to the local Environmental Protection Department, less than 10% of glass waste is recycled.
The key role of bartenders
Proof & Company’s solution is called ecoSPIRITS. It’s a new system based on a simple principle: end single-use glass in the form of glass bottles that, once emptied, end up in landfill. Instead, the ecoSPIRITS solution has a reusable metal container named ecoTOTE.
Each ecoTOTE contains 4.5 liters of spirits, and the bartenders who take delivery are responsible for filling up their own bottles. Once empty, the metal container is returned to Proof & Company, which washes and refills it.
With this system, the spirits company claims to have reduced its carbon footprint by more than 80% and eliminated 95% of the glass and cardboard used in packaging.
For example, at the 2019 Wonderfruit music and food festival in Pattaya, Thailand, Proof & Company's solution avoided the use of nearly 2,000 glass bottles in only two days.
The icing on the cake is that the ecoTOTE containers, with their imitation gas can look, can be stacked and, unlike glass, are unbreakable. This has enabled the Singaporean distributor to reduce its warehouse space by more than 30%.
"After three years of developing the technology and creating a multi-market closed-loop supply chain solution, Proof is now proud to present to the bar industry ecoSPIRITS: the world’s first low waste, low carbon spirits distribution technology and, perhaps, the first modern closed-looped system for spirits,” Gabie proclaims. After launches in Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia, the Maldives, Australia and New Zealand, the company is now planning to expand into China.
CREDITS: Main picture © Getty Images