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15 Innovative Eco Pouch & Drink Refill Schemes

April 25, 2022 by Joel Davidge

There is nothing better than the feeling of holding a beautifully designed spirit bottle in your hand.

But what happens when you’ve finished it?

Producers are implementing eco pouch options and drink refill schemes to reduce waste.

Here are a few of our favourites and cover why schemes like this are so important.

What is an Eco Pouch?

Eco pouches are storage pouches which replace the traditional glass bottle in the alcohol supply chain.

They use less energy to produce and transport, and can be easily recycled.

Many producers who offer an eco pouch also run a drink refill scheme, where pouches are returned to the distillery for reuse.

What are the benefits of a bottle refill scheme?

Bottle refill schemes means we waste less material like glass, reusing it instead.

This reduces the energy required to make new bottles (or recycle used ones for that matter). It also reduces the waste in landfill sites.

Sustainability is an emerging drinks industry trend, with brands keen to showcase their commitment to the planet.

There are many other ways the industry impacts the environment, which we’ll cover later.

First, here are some of the best refill schemes for drinks we’ve seen in recent years.

Bullard Spirits Eco Pouch Refill Scheme

Bullards Gin refill pouch, part of their drinks refill scheme

This eco pouch project won the 2020 Gin Guide Awards for sustainability.

Offering 70cl recyclable eco-pouches of their award-winning London Dry Gin, they also have pouches for the Strawberry and Black pepper gin, Old Tom Gin, and Coastal Gin products.

As well as this, Bullards also runs a refill scheme to further reduce waste.

You can pop your pouch in the post, and to be returned to the Bullards Distillery free of charge.

Terracycle’s “Zero Waste Box” solution breaks old material down and repurposes them into into new products.

Bullards are one of many distilleries marketing their bottles as a “bottle for life.”

Savings in production and postage go to the consumer. A pouch of Coastal gin costs £5 less than a regular bottle.

Winchester Distillery Twisted Nose Gin Refill Pouch

Winchester Distillery have released a 70cl refill pouch version of their popular Twisted Nose gin.

Take a trip through Hampshire’s rolling countryside. Aromas of pepper watercress, juniper, and locally grown lavender, this is a herbaceous and floral gin.

It makes for a killer martini, and pairs well with a slice of grapefruit in a G&T.

The Cocktail Society 1 litre cocktail pouch

The Cocktail Society Eco Pouch

Made for the on-trade, this offering from our cocktail brand allows a ready-to-serve option for bars and restaurants.

1 litre cocktail pouches reduces the amount of glass required for production, and means cocktails are ready to be served, reducing staff training costs.

Hocus: Pick & Mix Spirit Refill Pouch

This ultimate pack from Bristol based alchemists HOCUS includes a 50cl recyclable pouch of the HOCUS spirit.

If you’ve never tried HOCUS their unique selling point is that their neutral spirit is a base spirit

HOCUS’s “deconstructive ethanology” extracts the flavours from spirits like gin and rum.

Add ampoules containing these flavours to your neutral spirit to create your drink of choice.

With a name like HOCUS, you’d expect nothing less than magic, right?

Buying one bottle which can be made into all kinds of spirit?

Absolute genius.

HOCUS also offer an eco-refill pack. The pack includes a pouch of HOCUS spitit and 20 ampoules with your choice of flavours

EcoSPIRITS

An ecoSPIRITS ecoTOTE which removes glass bottles from the supply chain

This innovative system eliminates nearly all packaging waste in the supply chain.

Rather than a standard 6-bottle case of spirits, ecoSPIRITS use reusable ecoTOTES.

These contain 4.5 litres of liquid and are shock proof.

A network of ecoPLANTS clean used ecoTOTES which are then reused.

The system removes 35,000 glass bottles from the supply chain. That’s 19,250kg of carbon per year.

Dunnet Bay Distillers Rock Rose Gin Refill Pouch Scheme

Dunnet Bay’s award-winning Rock Rose Scottish gin comes in an eminently collectable ceramic bottle.

Once you’ve finished that, you can buy a fully recyclable gin refill pouch.

Dunnet Bay also offer a refill scheme, where you can post used pouches back to the distillery with no envelope or pouch required

A similar refill pouch scheme is available for their Holy Grass Vodka.

Due to lower production costs, both gin and vodka pouch versions are a lower price than their bottle equivalents.

Darnley’s Gin Refill Scheme & Gin Refill Pouch

Darnley's Gin eco pouch options

The distillery from East Scotland launched their refill pouch scheme earlier this year.

Their Original Gin, Spiced Gin, and the thrillingly dangerous Navy strength Spiced Gin all come in fully recyclable 70cl pouches.

You can post your used pouch back to the distillery where the team take care of the recycling. No envelope required!

Glaswegin Refill Pouch Scheme

The iconic Glaswegin square bottle is a thing of beauty.

We’ve seen many a bottle repurposed as a candlestick or flower holder.

Rather than buying new bottles, why not opt for their eco refill pouch?

Each pouch has a freepost label so you can send used ones back to the distillery for recycling

Glaswegin also use Terracycle. Reused pouches end up as garden furniture, building materials, or new pouches.

Sustainable Spirit Co. Eco-Pouch

Sustainable eco pouch from Sustainable Spirit Co

With sustainable in the name, it’s no surprise that the Sustainable Spirit Co. have an environmentally friendly packaging option.

Their full range of spirits, including Boxer Gin, Element 29 Vodka, and Toti Rum, are available in 2.8 litre pouches.

According to Sustainable Spirit Co. choosing a pouch reduces packaging by 95%.

It also reduces transport weight by 45% and saves a whopping 100% on the carbon cost of producing a new bottle.

Not bad at all, right?

As part of their refill scheme, returning your pouch gets you a discount code on your next purchase.

With the cobalt blue beauty of their Boxer Gin bottle, it really would be a shame to throw it out. The refill scheme means you’ll never have to do that.

Las Olas Rum Refill Pack

Speaking of beautiful bottle design, have you tried Las Olas premium spiced rum?

The stunning bottle design is worth the sale price alone.

Tall and sleek, it stands out on any drinks shelf, with a bright burnt orange hued liquid captured inside.

You can buy a single 70cl refill pack or you have the option to save further by subscribing. What could be simpler!

Wood Brothers Vodka Eco Refill Pouch 500ml

Tucked away in the Oxfordshire countryside, the Wood Brothers distillery uses a field to bottle approach to distilling.

A single estate distillery, all ingredients for their gin and vodka products are sources from the family farm.

Both the gin and vodka are available in a 500ml eco refill pack which can be returned for recycling free of charge via Royal Mail.

Falmouth Blackrock Gin Refill Option

An exciting Cornish gin with a crisp flavour, lemon verbena and a citrus edge.

The eco-pouch option, like many others means you can save a little money whilst being a more environmentally conscious drinker.

WhiskyMe Whisky Refill Subscription

Whisky refill pouches from WhiskyMe

The self-styled whisky club for the curious will be well-known to fans of BBC’s Dragon’s Den.

A discovery box for whisky, each month you’re sent samples of amazing whisky from around the world.

WhiskyMe have ditched the traditional glass bottle for a recyclable pouch.

An interesting fact on their website is that most distilleries use PET plastic bottles to send test samples to them.

For us, this clearly shows that the industry can and should move away from its obsession with glass.

Plus, send back any empties and you’ll get a free pouch for every twelve you return. Not bad going.

Pentland Hills Gin Bottle Refill Scheme

An anomaly in a world of eco-pouches, Pentland Hills launched their bottle refill scheme in 2018.

Simply send back your used bottle back to the distillery using their registration page and save £10 on a refilled bottle.

Tinkture Organic Rose Gin

Tinkture Gin bottle next to an eco refill pouch

This delightfully light and delicate gin from Cornwall is available in a 50cl drink refill pouch.

It’s a classic gin in the London Dry style, with the addition of fresh English roses which add subtle botanical notes.

Why are drink refill schemes important?

Refill schemes mean less wasted material, and less impact on our environment.

To put this into context, it’s estimated that there are 2 trillion drinks containers made each year.

Out of these, around 8 billion drinks bottles and cans are wasted every single year.

Over 90% of spirits are packaged in glass bottles. Whilst glass is recyclable, it takes a lot of energy to produce.

ecoSPIRITs estimated in 2020 that the world produced 40 billion single use spirit bottles. This comes at the cost of 22 million tons of carbon emitted into the atmosphere.

The whisky industry has previously been singled out for its elaborate packaging, dubbed a “recycling villain” by the UK Recycling Association in 2017.

Food and drink manufactures are estimated to be responsible for around 6% of the world’s industrial global energy usage.

A standard 750ml alcohol bottle is thought to producing 6.5 pounds of carbon dioxide.

For some context, this has roughly the same impact as driving a petrol vehicle 25 miles.

With these figures in mind, you can see why drinks companies are evaluating their output and thinking of ways to reduce their carbon impact.

What is the environmental impact of the drinks industry?

Aside from packaging, there are several factors where the drinks industry impacts the environment.

For example, one 500ml bottle of beer uses 148 litres of water.

Why is this important?

Well, the world’s population is growing. As demand for alcohol increases, so does the amount of water we need to make it.

There is also the land put aside to grow materials to go into the spirits and drinks we enjoy.

Again, as the global population grows, there will be increased pressure on resources.

Finally, there is waste product. Taking tequila as an example, every litre of the agave spirit made leaves behind around 5kg of pulp and 11 litres of acidic waste.

Tequila is only made in Mexico, meaning the rural communities which depend on the spirit for their livelihood are overly impacted by the creation of the spirit.

Whilst there is ongoing research underway to find methods to reduce the water required for distilling, implementing refill schemes is an immediate way for brands to reduce their carbon footprint.

Are drinks refill schemes the future?

Whilst the benefits of a refill scheme are clear for ecommerce brands and on-trade stores, some products remain more flexible to fit these schemes than others.

In late 2021 Waitrose announced it was ending it’s trial refill scheme. Despite seeing some success, the brand noted that products like beer and sparkling wine were not as popular with consumers.

However, for the bar and restaurant industry, refill schemes allow opportunities to reduce their waste impact on the planet.

Everything you need to know about the drinks industry

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