The Wines of Alentejo Sustainability Program (WASP) was launched in 2015 by Portugal’s Alentejo wine region. The initiative now represents 45% of Alentejo’s vineyards and all its significant wineries, and is modeling sustainability practices to other wine regions around the world. The initiative promotes the use of several sustainable practices, and one of these is waste management: all organic waste from the winemaking process should be composted, and as much should be recycled and reused as possible. Five years after its launch, WASP serves as a model for wine producers worldwide as we fight for a more sustainable future. Wine producers seeking to reduce their carbon footprint and reach a higher sustainability status can take inspiration from the program and reduce waste as much as possible. So how can this be done?
Composting and Reusing Organic Waste
Winemaking directly benefits from sustainable practice. Organic waste can be composted and sent straight back into the soil to nourish new grapevines. A study into composting vineyard waste found that the best results were seen when sludge and grape stalks were mixed and composted at a ratio of 1:2. This compost was seen to have high agronomic value, particularly for vineyards where the soil was low in organic matter. Organic waste can also be used to make other products such liquor and grapeseed oil.
Tracking Packaging at Both Ends
Wineries are involved in the packaging cycle at both ends: goods are received in packaging, and the final product is packed before it is shipped. In order for a winery to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill, it must know exactly what packaging is coming in and exactly what is going out. This means staff must be able to understand packing identification codes and recycle packaging in the appropriate containers.
Green packaging not only helps wineries become more sustainable; it results in a higher quality product too: proper packaging protects the grapes and allows more to be transported in one load, ensuring a high level of freshness. Haulage companies are now incorporating recycled materials in the transportation process, with packaging suppliers offering recyclable materials, including glass, labels, corks and kegs. Much of this is then reused, staying within the industry and keeping waste output down.
In any industry, waste can be reduced through careful stock management. Sustainable wineries monitor their inventories carefully, checking for unnecessary waste. Commonly seen wasteful practices include adding too many nitrogen compounds and over-using water. It is recommended that wineries check usage against key performance indicators in order to minimize overuse and reduce leaks. Inventory should be taken 12-13 times a year, and this will enable wine producers to control their costs, as well as managing waste output.
Sustainability is crucial to the 21st century. The coordinator for WASP, João Barroso, warns that producers who do not prioritize it will become outdated as time goes on. Consumers want to see a commitment to sustainability, and increasingly strict international guidelines are beginning to catch up. Waste management is a crucial component of sustainable practice, and wineries wishing to keep up must monitor this carefully.