Time Dewey-Mattia, the recycling and public educations manager for Napa Recycling and Waste Services, compares different alternatives to Styrofoam for packaging wine.

Photo: Sam Jones, Register

While there are multiple alternatives to Styrofoam that can be used to pack and ship wine, each requires different disposal methods. For example, the top material photographed with the recycle symbol on it cannot actually be recycle at the local Napa facility.

Photo: Sam Jones, Register

In addition to cardboard and shipping waste, the Napa Recycling and Waste Services plant also takes things like glass bottles, pallets, foil caps and more from local wineries. Pictured, Tim Dewey-Mattia picks up an untainted bottle that was brought to the facility.

Photo: Sam Jones, Register

Cut the cardboard: Eliminating wine waste with reusable shipping alternatives

Napa Valley’s eco-minded wineries are reducing their waste — keeping more and more grape pomace, water and glass out of the local landfill — but the cardboard and Styrofoam materials used for shipments, which overwhelming go out of the area, is another matter entirely.

According to Tim Dewey-Mattia — recycling and public education manager for Napa Recycling and Waste Services — there has been a rise in the number of sustainable packaging alternatives to Styrofoam.

“But some of them are not actually any better,” he said.

In his role at Napa Recycling, Dewey-Mattia aids local businesses seeking more sustainable solutions for their own operations, and in doing this, he has accumulated a pile of different packing materials from wineries that are just that: Different … but perhaps not better.

In recent months, he said about a dozen local wineries have come to him with questions, leaving behind prototypes for his inspection.

Some of the materials look like augmented egg cartons, foam stuffed between plastic sheets and uber-thin blow-up mattresses, but even when the funky strips are labeled as recyclable or compostable, Dewey-Mattia warned that this isn’t always true.

One shipping alternative made of hemp and jute fiber, he said, is 25% polyester.

“So if it is recycled, you would just end up with a bunch of microplastics in our compost,” he said.

Similarly, he says not all recycling centers across the state, country and world can process the same large variety of stuff as the Napa facility, and when considering that most wine shipments are being hauled elsewhere, there is no guarantee that the packaging protecting the vino even can be recycled wherever it ends up. 

“Unless everybody is using the same packaging, it is confusing for the consumer … Are they supposed to know all the nuisances of what is recyclable and isn’t?” said Dewey-Mattia. “It all comes back to needing reusable packaging, because single-use packaging is often very complicated.”

Several pieces of tech designed to help find reusable, temperature-specific shipping materials have come on the market, including boxes made out of moldable mushrooms and Otterbox’s recent invention, the Liviri Vino.

A reusable box holding four to six bottles, the Liviri offers thermal protection for up to a week and be reused for two-plus years. According to Liviri general manager Chuck Kukic, this means that after about 25 uses, the box has officially outperformed its single-use counterpart, and once the box can no longer be used, the box, inserts and ice packs are all recyclable.

While drop-off and pick-up wine shipment companies are out there, Dewey-Mattia said it has to be a profitable model to have it work on a large scale. So, despite a playbook on being a “Zero Waste Winery,” and a few sustainable options, for the most part, wineries are responsible for cutting down on their own waste.

Places like Trinchero Family Estates, in working with an organization like Napa Green, have ensured that their suppliers take back and re-use any unbroken pallets, drums and boxes, and at Napa’s Domaine Carneros, this has resulted in a 12-years-running packaging reuse program to make the most out of their materials that would otherwise be considered single-use and tossed.

Since adopting the program, staff have been trained to cut open and reuse their cardboard boxes in a certain, extra-careful way, allowing them to shift from a two-use lifespan model to five, and drastically cutting down on the amount of cardboard they go through.

“The program allows us to reuse about 25% of our total packaging, and we have recycled 1,009,674 pieces of packaging since the start of our program,” said Riley Sanchez. “On average, this saves the company about $75,000 a year.”

To date, she estimates this program has saved the winery about $750,000.

“Our tips for wineries considering starting their own program are to continue sustainability education and to track everything,” said Sanchez. “Sustainability is a journey, not a destination … It requires continuous improvement, and we are always working towards being more sustainable today than we were yesterday.”

Making the commitment to third party certification takes time and effort, but it is worth it to demonstrate our commitment to the community and to protect our watershed, our land and the air we breathe.​

A live check in with @abrittain & @reyeswine.mw!
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🌿 Did you know that less than 3% of philanthropic donations go to environmental work? 

Please consider donating to Napa Green this giving season with one of several ways at any level! 

Head to the link in our bio for details!
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With gratitude and joy, we wish you a beautiful day & start to the holiday season from all of us at Team Green! 

- Ben, Meghan, Anna, Marissa, Sierra & Megan
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‘If not here, where? If not now, when?’ 

“The onus is on us as a world class wine growing region to be leaders in sustainability & climate action.” 

- Executive Director of Napa Green, Anna Brittain
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It’s been a big week at Napa Green and we want to take a moment to raise a glass to salute you all. 

We are overjoyed to see so much support and invigorated interest in our mission towards sustainable practices and regenerative agriculture in the wine industry. 

We have many more details, paired with educational & financial resources that are already up and rolling on our website. We will continue to share them all, one by one and in great detail here on socials as well. 

For now please plan on joining us at our upcoming Town Hall meeting on Dec 7th at @stsupery. You can find more details at napagreen.org. 

Cheers and Happy Friday Napa Valley. We are so proud to be a part of this amazing community!
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⚠️ Important Announcement 

Napa Green becomes the first sustainable wine growing certification to require the phaseout of Round Up. 

Please find the link in our bio for the full press release and full suite of info & grower resources. 

Join us on December 7th for our Napa Green Town Hall at @stsupery.
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Don’t miss the awe-inspiring @nikki_silvestri at @dominusestatewinery on Nov 30th!
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You’re invited to join us for a very special day at @dominusestatewinery on November 30th. 

We’ll be briefly interviewing our speaker @nikki_silvestri right here on Instagram today at 2:00pm PST to hear more about what to expect at this event. See you then.
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Curious to learn more? Join us at @dominusestatewinery on November 30th for a rare event and luncheon. Link in bio for details.
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GREEN is the new black this season!! 

Head to the link in our bio now and get your shirts, help a good cause and be an honorary part of Team Green this season! 💚
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Let’s hear it for our Executive Director of Napa Green, the incomparable Anna Brittain for being named a 2023 Wine Industry Leader by @winebusinessmonthly!! 

In their Sustainability Stewards section (which we love to see) we find Anna named in good company with inspired fellow leaders! 

Head to our stories or the link in our bio for free access to the full November issue. 

Cheers to the great work of our visionary Director Anna Brittain!!
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Drink Green this Halloween! 💚
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Sierra is our Soil & Climate Specialist at Napa Green and her ask this year is that everyone consider donating to our small but mighty Team Green for Giving Season! 

Here is more from @regenwithsierra: 

“🎃 Happy Halloween Eve everyone! Today is my birthday, and I would be beyond thrilled if you would consider a donation to @napagreen to support a nonprofit focused on climate action in the wine industry 🍷🍾

@napagreen has the leading set of standards for sustainable practices, from soil to bottle. I am most proud of the work we do with winegrape growers to adopt regenerative agricultural practices in their vineyards. 

Please consider supporting us in our mission!  Click the link in bio for more! “
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Thank you for having us @visitnapavalley! We had a great time talking to visitors about the many sustainability practices our Napa Green wineries and vineyards employ! 

Stop into the Visit Napa Valley Visitor Center in Napa to learn more!
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