Reuse is king at Kapati craft distillery The Bond Store

When it comes to sustainability the waste hierarchy is the simplest and often best guideline, and it’s no different for packaging.

In the hierarchy reuse is king and no other packaging material is better suited to this than glass. While reusing glass bottles and jars at scale around New Zealand isn’t environmentally or economically sustainable, there are a growing number of producers servicing their local areas offering a reuse option.

The Bond Store Gin and Vodka distillery in Kapiti Coast is one such example. Owners Bec Kay and Chris Barber supply their craft-distilled creations to restaurants and cafes in plastic crates, rather than cardboard, and take the glass bottles back to be washed and reused.

We chatted to them about the scheme:

You started the bottle and crate swap just after starting The Bond Store 18 months ago. What made you decide to go this route?

We were packing everything into boxes and delivering them and the boxes were just getting thrown away. It was such a waste of resources.

What has the response from your customers been?

Really positive, we have had great support and loads of interest in it.

How many bottles are you swapping out and how much packaging is being saved on a weekly basis?

It’s quite hard to say – it depends on how busy the bars are but usually our busy customers will be going through two dozen bottles a week. We also deliver bottles in crates to local bottle stores so that could be 20 dozen at a time. We can’t get the bottles back from bottle shops but save loads of boxes that will get chucked away as soon as they are unpacked.

Run us through the swap process from start to end?

Basically, we offer this service to our customers and then work through with them how this would work for them. We have to take into consideration how much storage space they have for crates and bottles, how much they use in a week and how often they need empties picked up.

We then deliver their orders in crates and pick up crates of bottles when they need us to (usually at the same time we drop off full bottles to them). We then sort, check, wash and sanitise the bottles.

If there is any damage or the bottles are soiled, we recycle them as the hygiene and safety of our product still remains our top priority. We store the bottles ready to be refilled and keep the bottles for each bar separate so they are getting their own bottles back each time. 

The bottles are used up to 10 times before being recycled. What is the reason for this limit?

They could probably go for longer but the labels start to get damaged.

What are the benefits to the establishments you are servicing?

The bars and restaurants have to pay for recycling to be taken away so they are saving money on glass and cardboard removal. It’s also a feel-good factor for some staff even if it is just a small thing they are doing. 

What percentage of the bottles are coming back to you?

From each bar we reuse about 90% of bottles that come back. We currently have a small group of bars using the scheme but as we continue to grow we are getting more and more interest and hope to get others taking it up.

How much room for growth do you see for this initiative, both in terms of The Bond Store and the local craft beverage industry in general?

Loads of room. We can only service the bars in the Wellington area as there are only the two of us but I can’t see why others can’t do the same in their area. I think it’s really about volume – if bars are using 12 bottles a night it’s worth them doing, but it if it’s a bottle a month probably a bit harder.