Recycling Q&A with Dave the Wine Merchant

Recycling Q&A with Dave the Wine MerchantRecently, there’s been a trend in the questions I’ve received about our recycling choices:

Q: Why don’t you ship my precious wine in Styrofoam?  Doesn’t it offer better protection?

A: We’ve chosen not to ship in Styrofoam for a number of reasons – it is more expensive, it is rarely recycled (and decomposes very slowly) and it takes up a comparatively large amount of space in landfills.  

Dave the Wine Merchant chooses Molded Pulp over StyrofoamWhile Styrofoam offers some incremental protection against breakage, our breakage rate is so low (far less than 1%) that this benefit doesn’t offset the other arguments against the use of Styrofoam to ship your wine. For all these reasons, I’ve chosen to use the space-saving, recyclable, and very affordable “egg carton” shippers that effectively cradle your wine.  In the trade, these are known as “molded pulp” shippers (right, shown without top layer). 

Dave the Wine Merchant recommends pulp over Styrofoam for wine shippingQ: But what about extreme temperatures?  Styrofoam is a great insulator, no?

A: While researching this issue with our shipper some years ago, they showed me a study (which I could not find online or I’d link to it here), where a Styrofoam-packed bottle of wine was compared to an identical, unpacked bottle.  After both were subjected to 100 degree heat, the Styrofoam packaging slowed the rate of heat exchange for many minutes, but not enough to ensure its safe arrival inside a sauna-like delivery truck, which can take hours.  

Dave the Wine Merchant recommends recycled wine shipping materialsFor this reason, we simply choose not to ship during periods of extreme temperatures. This decision affects our shipments for about six weeks in the dead of winter, and about 8 weeks during the heat of summer – though we’ve had several years in a row now where the summer temperatures have extended well beyond this period.  

This decision surely results in some lost sales, but most of our loyal buyers drink our selections over time, and don’t necessarily need their wine right away.  This allows us to use the more affordable, and much more recyclable, packaging alternative.

The alternative would be to offer a thermal shipping package, which controls the temperature of your wine during shipment for up to 48 hours.  This costs an incremental $15 just for the shipper, plus the up-charge to overnight shipping, which runs more than double the normal shipping rate.  Please let me know if this sounds worthwhile to you!

 Q: I like to recycle and hate to throw out a perfectly good wine shipper.  Can I return them to you for re-use?

A: I like the idea of re-using materials, but I still have to give you a “definite maybe”.  If you can hand them to me, or leave them at the shop, then great – shipping them back to me just doesn’t make sense, economically or environmentally.  Plus, any inserts must be untorn, and outer boxes clean enough so that YOU would want to see your wine arrive in it.  That said, I encourage any local customers to do so, if possible.

Thanks for your questions.  Please keep them coming!
Dave “The Wine Merchant” Chambers

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