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Recycling wine bottles isn’t cost effective

I was cleaning out the wine bottles from our garage this weekend and started to recycle them. But the new-era recycling rules forbid tossing them in the red bin, so into the black garbage bin they went. I know there are glass-recycling places, but I’m already paying for the “service” I’m using. It got me thinking, why don’t local wineries figure out a way to reuse wine bottles?

— George R., Medford

In a perfect world, those pinot and cabernet sauvignon bottles could be sent back to the vintners for refills.

Alas, a variety of forces are in play, including time and money, not to mention microbial entities that really could spoil your next glass of merlot.

It’s not just a matter of washing and reusing the bottles, Pallet Wine Co., winemaker Linda Donovan told us.

First of all, labels would have to be removed, and if you have tried to remove a properly applied label you know that’s no easy task. Then comes sterilization, a really important step.

“It’s just much more convenient and economical to buy new ones,” Donovan said.

Most of today’s supply comes from Mexico and China, although there is a smattering of domestic production.

Sanitizing is not just important for cold germs, but in regard to what goes in the bottle. There can’t be residual sugar, Donovan said, because there wouldn’t be a way to know what was previously in the bottle.

“If there is something that could possibly ferment, that wouldn’t be good,” Donovan said.

Beer is even more susceptible because of varying pH levels. You would need a commercial dish washer and have the right formulation for sterilization.”

Spoilage could easily set in if a rogue microbe colony survived, and that could lead to undesirable and even dangerous results.

“If you’ve got fermenting going on in a bottle, it can explode unless it’s designed for pressure,” she said.

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@rosebudmedia.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.