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New Zealand wineries manage waste together

Fresh white wine marc.

Fresh white wine marc.

Each year, approximately 40,000 tonnes of grape marc (the pulpy residue left after the juice has been pressed from grapes) are generated from the wine producers in the region of Marlborough on North Island, New Zealand. And just over half of that comes from eight large wine companies at the region’s two industrial estates at Riverlands and Cloudy Bay.

As part of a new initiative to turn this grape waste into profit, the eight companies have committed to exploratory work to turn thousands of tonnes of vineyard waste into a valuable new product. A new entity, Grape Marc Ltd, is to be set up by the wineries who have formally expressed interest in working together on the project.

One of the first steps will be to look at converting the grape marc into an enriched compost product, but ultimately the hope is that scientific know-how can find new, commercial, practical uses for it.

One of the Marlborough winery managers and spokesperson for Grape Marc Ltd, Eric Hughes, said the group was looking for ways to add value to what was essentially a waste product.

“While large quantities of it already do get recycled as compost, we are keen to explore ways of finding uses for grape marc that will generate greater returns. If we can apply scientific innovation and turn the waste into a high-value product which we can produce on a commercial scale, then that will be even better,” he said.

Collectively, the cost of disposing of grape marc is more than half a million dollars each year for the eight wineries. If that cost could be cut and the waste material reused, then that was an environmentally and economically preferable option.

The Marlborough District Council facilitated the project and is to help the wineries seek financial support from the Ministry for the Environment’s Waste Minimisation Fund.

The environmental effects of current grape marc disposal practices in Marlborough are monitored by the council and the assets and services committee chairman says he is anxious to avoid significant increase in the quantities in landfill.

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