Wine Bottle Recycling Catches on in Napa

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There may be an encounter with a familiar-looking wine bottle in your future.

Wine bottle recycling is the next big thing, according to Wine Bottle Renew CEO and founder Bruce Stephens. His company collects used wine bottles, sanitizes them and sends them right back to the bottler for re-use.

If this scheme can work anywhere, it's right here in the Bay Area, where recycling rates are the highest in the nation. In 2008, the most recent year for which the City has figures, San Francisco's recycling and composting rate topped 72 percent -- and that's before there was a mandatory composting law.

The wine bottle recycling is a distinctively Northern Californian endeavor, with a factory in Stockton and employees living in Sonoma and Napa.

It's a good deal for wineries, says co-president Bill Dodd, who claims that wineries can buy reused bottles for 20 to 40 percent less than new ones.

The idea came to Stephens when he was running his own winemaking business out of his home. He noticed that bottle-cleaning was widespread in Europe, but dirty bottles here in the US were ruining his product.

Sorting the glass containers sounds like a daunting challenge: with over 500 different variety of wine bottle, Wine Bottle Renew only retains about 20 percent. The rest they crush and recycle.

Matt Baume wonders if anyone's working on wine box recycling.

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