Sustainable Scotland: Isle of Harris Distillery launches eco-friendly Refill Project

The Isle of Harris Distillery has launched an eco-friendly initiative to help combat climate change and reduce waste from its gin products.

Isle of Harris Distillery

The Refill Project has been designed to address the growing demand from customers to allow them to keep the award-winning and treasured Isle of Harris Gin bottle instead of throwing it out.

Through the scheme, gin purchasers can sign up for an annual subscription costing £346.50 and receive the newly-designed 500ml bottle which can be refilled when it is time to top up.

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Each subscription includes the refill bottle delivered free directly to the customer’s door, one of 12 collectable Isle of Harris landscape photographic postcards by Peter Kwasniewski, monthly newsletters as well as additional offers.

Isle of Harris Gin refill bottle alongside the iconic glass offering

The Tarbert-based distillery believes that – although the original iconic glass bottle is fully recyclable – the beauty of the design makes it difficult for customers to part ways with it.

The team explored the potential of refill solutions by experimenting with aluminium as a high-quality material with a strong capability for being recycled, lightness and excellent carbon footprint figures.

Aluminum is one of the most recycled materials available for packaging, with 75 per cent of the element ever produced still in circulation, according to the Aluminium Federation, compared to a reported 9 per cent of all plastics.

Unlike other materials, aluminium can be indefinitely recycled without loss of quality or strength and, at nine times lighter than its glass equivalent, the refill bottle also requires less fuel to transport.

Recycling the metal saves about 90 per cent of the energy it takes to make virgin aluminium, so to maximise its low impact on the environment, the material needs to be recycled.

In addition, Isle of Harris Gin bottle’s packaging is environmentally friendly. They are wrapped in an Forest Stewardship Council-certified tissue paper, acid-free paper, and printed with eco-friendly low-volatile organic compounds soy inks.

The tissue paper is sourced from a forest and supply chain that are managed responsibly and sustainably.

Simon Erlanger, managing director at the Isle of Harris Distillery, says: “We’ve been looking for ways to reduce our carbon footprint without losing the pleasure of pouring from our lovely gin bottle.

“We learnt that aluminium can be the most recyclable of materials and so this new subscription service looks like a great solution.”

The refill bottle is only initially available through the limited annual subscription service. The first will be sent out within three to five working days, and subsequent refill bottles will then be sent after the 20th of the following month and each month thereafter.

Known as the Social Distillery, the Isle of Harris Distillery business was established in 2015 by a group of ten men and women from the island – which has a population of less than 2,000 people – with the aim of bringing the community together while creating jobs.

The enterprise has since grown to 40 permanent staff and vows to expand sustainably with the future of Harris at its heart.

The Refill Project is just the latest eco-friendly venture by the business, which from the start used sugar kelp to mark out its spirit in an environmentally-friendly way.

Found on the island’s coast, the kelp provides a substrate for all kinds of marine life to inhabit and provides a hunting space for otters.

Harvested by a local diver from around the seas of the Outer Hebrides, the kelp is used by the distillery to create subtle coastal notes for its gin.

Mike Donald, the distillery’s chief storyteller, comments: “Behindthe scenes, we’ve been working hard to eliminate all plastic from our distillery shop and range of online products.

“We’re proud that our Isle of Harris Gin bottle is now100 per cent plastic-free and fully recyclable, as is all our gift packaging – even our shipping boxes and tape arebiodegradable.

“Last year, we commissioned an audit by Zero Waste Scotland to assess our energy use, and we’re currently implementing some of their key recommendations.”

He adds: “The Harris distillery was built with a long-term vision, something that would stand the tests of time, and bring sustainable success to our island community, and the coming generations of Hearaich [Harris].”