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One Bottle at a Time

Author: Taylor Decker
March, 2013 Issue

Are you a commercial winemaker unsure what to do with your winery’s surplus glass inventory? Or maybe you’re a boutique or hobby producer wondering how to obtain a small amount of wine bottles for a fraction of the cost of traditional distributors. In the summer of 2004, using the family pickup truck and equipped with an extensive knowledge of the wine packaging industry, Ryan Miron decided to remedy both situations by creating a business that would virtually eliminate packaging surplus for large producers and provide a much needed product and service for small producers. By July 2012, The Bottle Exchange was a fully actualized operation, located in Santa Rosa and easily accessible to all Northern California wine regions.
 
It’s a common misconception that the company buys used bottles, washes, then resells them. But in reality, all glass that goes in and out of The Bottle Exchange warehouse is new, clean glass. These bottles are typically ones that were in excess of a winery’s needs (wineries often over-order by a small degree, either because of fluctuating agricultural conditions that affect production or packaging/distributor-related issues).
 
The business concept has been embraced by both customers and vendors. “As the industry starts to take notice of us, we feel we’re gaining greater traction, which is letting us really make a difference environmentally,” states Miron. According to Recycling-Revolution.com , mining and transporting raw materials for making glass produces about 385 pounds of waste and 28 pounds of air pollution for every ton of glass manufactured—that’s enough to bottle about six barrels of wine.
 
“Bottle for bottle, recirculating the industry’s unused glass is greatly more economical and environmentally responsible than recycling,” explains Miron. As the ‘green movement’ continues to gain momentum in the wine industry, The Bottle Exchange aims to apply the concept to the packaging side.
 
To date, a large portion of Bottle Exchange customers are located in Northern California. The company has the logistical capabilities of national service, “but the economic costs can become prohibitive rather quickly,” Miron explains. “It’s our philosophy that targeting our local market is the best use of our efforts, because that’s where we can have the most influence.” As a whole, the ‘green movement’ is gaining momentum in the wine industry; it’s Miron’s goal for The Bottle Exchange to apply this concept to the packing side.
 
“Many wineries have tons of surplus glass and no idea what to do with it. They don’t want to just throw it out, so we give them an easy, feel-good way to get rid of surplus bottles,” explains Robert Ciocatto, who runs the warehouse and manages all purchasing for the company. His main goal is to seek out wineries that are overloaded with glass they no longer have a need for. He then works with logistics manager, Aaron Hall, to arrange transportation of the surplus bottles to The Bottle Exchange warehouse in Santa Rosa, where it’s sorted and readied for resale. “Our company gives countless micro lots of untouched glass a last chance to be used before they’re recycled, thrown away or stored in a warehouse for an indefinite amount of time.
“I’ve been purchasing glass from The Bottle Exchange since it first opened. There’s always an excellent variety of bottles for me to choose from, and I like that I can get the same quality of glass that large wineries get, but for a fraction of the price. I feel good about doing business with them, because I know I’m helping reduce waste, which is very important,” says Emilio Castelli, owner of Castelli Vineyards in Sebastopol.
As surplus glass dealers, The Bottle Exchange gives customers a cost effective option for bottling small batches of wine in a way that reduces both energy and material waste. Clearly, using glass that’s already been produced can save the environment from a tremendous volume of air pollutants and waste that would otherwise be created. “Our goal is to reduce the carbon footprint of the wine industry, one bottle at a time,” says Miron.
 
 
Taylor Decker is a sales executive at The Bottle Exchange in Santa Rosa). You can contact her at (707) 703-1306 or taylor@thebottleexchange.com.

 

 

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