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Waitrose removes sleeves from wine bottles to reduce unnecessary packaging

The trial will initially encompass four of the retailer’s own-label wines from its Loved & Found range.

Waitrose will become the first UK supermarket to remove plastic and foil sleeves from wine bottles in a bid to cut down on unnecessary packaging.

The project begins today, so shoppers will notice the distinct absence of sleeves on three Italian wines – Zibibbo and Mascalese from Sicily, and Lacrima from Marche – along with Waitrose’s Trincadeira from Alentejo.

The trial will be extended to the entire 10-strong range of Loved & Found wines – which is designed to showcase lesser known grape varieties and wine regions – by the end of the year.

The retailer estimates that this move will save half a tonne of unnecessary packaging on an annual basis.

‘The bottles look quite different as the neck appears naked, so it will be interesting to see how our customers react to us removing these familiar sleeves,’ said Barry Dick MW, sourcing manager for beer, wine and spirits at Waitrose. ‘I for one am looking forward to not having to wrestle with the packaging.’

Wine drinkers are accustomed to cutting and tearing off the sleeves, which are officially known as wine capsules.

However, they serve no functional purpose, so eradicating them will be better for the environment – and easier for wine drinkers.

Dick explains that the sleeves were introduced many years ago to prevent moths and weevils from ruining wines stored in dark, damp cellars.

Those insects would bore into the corks, which would cause the wine to either leak or taste musty when opened.

However, very few people have wine cellars nowadays, and those that do have them tend to keep their wines in far better conditions.

As such, the capsules are now purely used for aesthetic reasons, and they are no longer necessary from a quality standpoint.

The corks used by the wine trade have also drastically improved, and the wines in Waitrose’s Loved & Found range use a high-quality new FSC cork.

The trial is part of a wider sustainability drive at the supermarket, which converted as many of its small wine bottles as possible to cans earlier this year, halving the carbon footprint per drink in the process.

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