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Reducing the environmental impacts of bag-in-box inner bags and wine bags in the Gulf of Finland region

Organisation: Alko Oy

Time: 6/1/2014 – 5/31/2018



Alko is a responsible and service-oriented specialist supplier of alcoholic beverages, with 348 stores around Finland. Our goal is to be Finland’s best and most responsible service company, the best workplace and most efficient speciality retail chain.

We carry out long-term work to prevent and reduce environmental impacts arising from our operations. Significant environmental impacts arise from the manufacture, transport and recycling of alcoholic beverage containers. According to an environmental study conducted by Systembolaget*, packaging accounts for around 30% of the total climate impacts of the alcohol company. Every year, Alko sells around 148 million packagings that contain alcoholic beverages, of which bag-in-box packs, carton packs and wine bags account for just over 14 million. When these packagings end up in the natural environment and waterways, certain problems, including littering, are caused.

Bag-in-box packs and wine bags are no-deposit beverage packs for which there is currently no integrated collection system in Finland. Empty packs must be taken to municipal waste points and sorted according practices that differ from municipality to municipality. The insulation layer of the inner bags of bag-in-box and wine bags contains aluminium and ethylene vinyl alcohol, which complicates the recycling of the material. The task of the insulation layer is to protect the product, e.g. from oxidation, but at the same time it also causes problems in most waste incineration plants, e.g. as corrosion of furnace walls.

Since 2011, at Alko shops in South-West Finland, bag-in-box bags and wine bags have been collected for reuse in cement production. The inflammable inorganic matter (e.g. aluminium) arising in the incineration process is utilised as a raw material for cement clinker. The material of wine bags is utilised in its entirety – the plastic as an energy source in the incineration process and the aluminium film as a raw material for cement clinker. Due to the high incineration temperature of the oven and log residence time, complete incineration is achieved, and incineration does not give rise to any harmful ash.

Our customers, particularly boaters and cottage owners, appreciate the convenience of the service. Encouraged by the positive customer feedback received, we have committed to extend the collection area to Alko’s Helsinki and Uusimaa shops and to increase customer information about the environmental impacts of alcoholic beverage packaging as well as correct recycling practices.
The extension means that it will be possible in future to return empty wine bags and bag-in-box inner bags to nearly 90 Alko shops. From an environmental perspective, it is important that packaging can be reused instead of it ending up as litter in Finland’s sensitive nature and waterways. As part of the initiative, we are supporting the work of the Baltic Sea Action Group with EUR 2,500 in each year of the commitment.