Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Wine fest to uncork new uses for empty bottles

There’ll be no whining about what to do with the empty bottles at this year’s Denver International Wine Festival, Oct. 29 to Nov. 1 on the DU campus.

For the second-consecutive year the bottles opened at the festival will be repurposed into goblets and tumblers, not just dumped into landfills.

“Last year we ended up collecting about 1,000 to 1,500 bottles,” says Christa Donohue, co-owner with her husband, Brian Roome, of the Green Glass Co., a reuse company in Weston, Wisc., that took home the wine festival’s castoffs.

The company handles 60,000 to 80,000 empty wine, beer and soft drink bottles a month, transforming them into practical, artistic creations ranging from goblets and glasses to votives, vases and candle holders. They even make coat and towel racks from glass bottles, which otherwise would be thrown away.

“We cut the bottle in half,” Donohue says. “The bottom becomes a glass. The top becomes a wine goblet.”

A special, patented heating process blocks the neck of the wine bottle and allows craftspeople to stretch and flatten the mouth of the bottle, turning it into the base of the new goblet. Then the rim is polished so the final product is smooth.

Repurposing a standard 750 mL wine bottle results in a tumbler of about 7 or 8 ounces and a goblet of 8-10 ounces, Donohue says. The shapes vary depending on whether the original bottle had “shoulders” like a Bordeaux bottle or falling lines like a Chardonnay bottle.

The colors vary, with blue being the shade most prized.

“Every tumbler and glass is unique,” she says. “It takes elements of both artistry and manufacturing.”

The company can even emboss a name, design or corporate logo onto the bottles for custom orders.

Typically, the company partners with wineries and other sources to collect bottles, transform them into new products and resell them online and at retail outlets such as Pottery Barn and Equipment de Vin.

“We’re eco-friendly folks from way back,” Donohue says, adding that reusing the bottles is less energy-intensive than recycling them, which involves grinding the glass and melting it.

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