The Importance of Considering Product Loss Rates in Life Cycle Assessment: The Example of Closure Systems for Bottled Wine
Purpose: The objective of this study is to discuss the implications of product loss rates in terms of the environmental performance of bottled wine. Wine loss refers to loss occurring when the consumer does not consume the wine contained in the bottle and disposes of it because of taste alteration, which is caused by inadequate product protection rendering the wine unpalatable to a knowledgeable consumer. The decision of whether or not to drink the wine in such cases is guided by subjective consumer taste perception and wine quality expectation (drinking the bottle or disposing of the wine down the drain and replacing it with a new bottle). This study aims to illustrate the importance of accurately defining system boundaries related to wine packaging systems. Methods: The environmental impacts resulting from wine loss rates as related to two types of wine bottle closures—natural cork stoppers and screw caps—have been estimated based on literature review data and compared to the impact of the respective closure system. The system studied relates to the functional unit “a 750 mL bottle of drinkable wine” and includes bottled wine, bottle and closure production, wine production, wine loss and wine poured down the drain. Results: The range of wine alteration rates due to corked wine is estimated to be 2–5% based on interviews with wine experts. Consumer behavior was assessed through a sensitivity study on replacement rates. When the increase in loss rate with the cork stopper is higher than 1.2% (corresponding to 3.5% corked wine multiplied by a consumer replacement rate of 35%), the influence of losses on the impact results is higher than that of the closure material itself. The different closures and associated wine losses represent less than 5% of the total life cycle impact of bottled wine.
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