Producing a humble wine or beer bottle is a resource-intensive process.

A lot goes into making glass containers, from running furnaces at around 1,500 degrees to the materials themselves.

A plant near South Australia’s Barossa Valley is one of the largest producers and recyclers of glass bottles in the country, supplying the wine industry and breweries around Australia.

Packaging firm Orora’s factory is undergoing upgrades as it looks to try to cut emissions and save on costs.

Central to the effort is a new furnace worth around $40 million that is due to come online within months.

“When it’s finished, the new furnace upgrade with the oxygen-fired furnace, will put that furnace in the top 10 per cent in the world for energy efficiency,” said Greg Savage, general manager of Orora’s Australasian beverage glass division.

Packaging firm Orora’s factory is undergoing upgrades as it looks to try to cut emissions.(ABC News)

The improvement is driven by replacing air in the furnace with oxygen, which is expected to deliver fuel savings and environmental benefits.

“We’re reducing carbon emissions by about 20 per cent with the oxy-fired furnace,” Mr Savage said.

The project received more than $12 million from the Commonwealth government’s Modern Manufacturing Initiative in 2022.

Increasing the percentage of recycled glass found in new products is another way the company is looking to reduce its environmental impact.

It opened a new recycling plant nearly two years ago and has a target of using 60 per cent recycled glass in its bottles by 2025.

In February, Orora reported it was using 38 per cent recycled glass in its products.

The company says using recycled glass has a number of benefits, including reducing the amount of new materials required for products as well as lowering the energy needed to make them.

The company says it wants to be using 60 per cent recycled glass in its bottles by 2025.(Supplied: @chuttersnap via unsplash)

An Italian study found a 10 per cent increase in the cullet — crushed, recycled glass — in the mix used for making new containers decreases the energy consumption needed by about 2 to 3 per cent.

“For about every 10 per cent of recycled glass, we reduce our CO2 emissions by about 5 per cent,” Mr Savage said.

“We’re currently bringing in glass from Western Australia, Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and the Northern Territory.”

“And we also use about 80 per cent of the CDS [container deposit scheme] glass that’s available in South Australia,” he said.

Combined, the two projects are estimated to reduce Orora’s energy consumption at the plant over the next decade by 1.8 million gigajoules.

‘Quite remarkable’ energy savings as projects qualify for efficiency scheme

The two projects are the first large-scale programs to qualify for the South Australian government’s Retailer Energy Productivity Scheme.

Under state law, large retailers are obligated to meet energy efficiency targets set annually by the state’s energy minister.

Historically, the scheme has focused on households and smaller businesses.

An agreement between Origin Energy and Orora will see the benefits and reductions from the furnace and expanded recycling plant count towards the retailer’s targets, in this case, Origin.

South Australian Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis described the savings being delivered in terms of reduced gas and electricity use as “quite remarkable”.

Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis at the Orora factor near South Australia’s Barossa Valley.(ABC News)

“We all save on this scheme,” he said.

“Because there’s less gas being spent, there’s less electricity being used in the peaks, and the less electricity you use in the peaks on plants like this means all of our power prices drop.”

“The first step in any great sustainability plan is energy efficiency, because you can reduce carbon and cost at the same time,” said James Magill, Origin Energy’s executive general manager of Origin Zero, the firm’s renewable energy arm.

Despite the financial outlay on the upgrades, the two projects are expected to deliver cost savings in addition to the improved emissions.

Orora estimates its energy bills will fall by up to $18 million over the next 10 years.