AMERICAN CANYON -- A founder of a new business with headquarters here hopes to reintroduce a concept long lost to many Americans -- reusing reusable materials.
"We've become a disposable culture, and it's a shame," Wine Bottle Renew CEO and founder Bruce Stephens said this week.
The company collects used wine bottles and washes and sanitizes them, then resells them for reuse, he said.
The company has set up a bottle-washing plant in a 92,000-square-foot former Del Monte facility in Stockton. The firm collects bottles mostly from Napa County, which helps explain why its headquarters is in American Canyon, Stephens said.
"I live in Sonoma, and our factory is in Stockton," Stephens said. "My partner, our president, is Napa County Supervisor Bill Dodd, and he's in Napa, and we wanted to be near the wineries who are our investors and our clients."
Dodd, a former Chico State University fraternity brother of Stephens', said the firm's concept is a winner for everyone.
"Taking wine bottles from recycle to reuse saves about 95 percent of the carbon footprint," Dodd said. "Wineries can become more green in their operation and buy reused bottles for 20 to 40 percent less than new. And I defy anyone to look at our bottles and tell if it's new or reused, that's how clean they are."
A holdup in the delivery of a huge, industrial bottle-washing machine has pushed back the firm's full-scale start date, likely to mid-September,
Stephens said he came up with the idea for his $3.5 million enterprise about two years ago from his home-based winemaking business.
"I got some bottles -- and they were a really good deal -- and I poured my 2-year-old wine in them and they turned out not to be clean. Ruined my line," he said. "I woke up my wife at 2 a.m. and asked her how come no one's washing bottles? They do it all over Europe, but no one's doing it here."
Stephens said company employees collect discarded bottles from wineries, tasting rooms, restaurants, bottling lines and other sources. They then sort them by style, color and other factors, then wash and sanitize them for resale. Those that break or otherwise can't be reused are returned to the manufacturer for recycling, he said.
"There are about 500 styles of bottles, and we keep about 100 of the most popular," Stephens said. "We crush and recycle the rest."
Wine Bottle Renew's more than 40 investors include Biagi Trucking, BLT Enterprises, VinLux, Luna Vineyards, Futo Wines, Hall Winery, Jackson Family Wines, Trinchero Family Estates and Napa Recycling and Waste Services, according to the company website.