Save the Box: Wineries Want Their Shipping Stuff Back

How a Simple Gesture Can Help the Environment, and Save Wineries Thousands

If you’ve been ordering Virginia wines online during the coronavirus lockdown, you’ve experienced the  guilt of just tossing all those sturdy, completely re-usable boxes and packing materials into the dumpster. And it’s no surprise our guilt’s on the rise--some wineries report their shipping has increased from 1-2 packages a week to 10-15 every day. That’s a lot of landfill.

But there’s some good news for our guilty consciences: turns out, many wineries want it all back.

“Everyone is shipping more, thanks to our amazing supporters of Virginia wine,” says Sarah Gorman of Cardinal Point Winery in Afton. “Shipping materials are quite pricey, and when a winery offers discounts as well as reduced or free shipping, it’s definitely felt.”

“Depending on the quantity a winery orders, a shipping case box alone can be $12.00, just for one box,” says Jen Breaux of Breaux Vineyards in Purcellville.

Maggie Malick of Maggie Malick Wine Caves, also in Purcellville, adds, “The last receipts I saw we were charged anywhere from $3-$7 for shipping materials, depending on the vendor and the amount ordered. Since we're all offering shipping discounts to our customers right now to encourage sales, anywhere we can save money helps.”

Nearby at Walsh Family Wines, owner Sarah Walsh says, “We are now accepting return shipping materials to be reused. It’s a huge cost savings for us.”

Many wineries say they’re happy to take back any winery’s shipping materials; it doesn’t have to be their own. Says Maggie Malick, “Shipping boxes are pretty standard. If you can remove the labels, great! But some of them are tough to remove. So we just paste the new one over the top. Anything we can't cover, we obliterate with a large black sharpie. I will gladly take shipping containers in good condition.”

Sarah Gorman agrees. “It’s greatly appreciated if boxes are prepped with label removal but it’s not necessary,” she says.  “Any contribution, great or small, is appreciated. We will also offer materials we collect to our neighboring wineries who need them.”

Cardinal Point Winery in Afton has a marked drop-off point curbside for returned boxes and packing materials. All items are placed in a plastic bin, sprayed with sanitizing solution, and left outside for at least 24 hours.

“If you're worried about germs, set it someplace quiet for a couple days and they'll die off, says Maggie Malick. “Which you should really be doing anyway,” she adds. “After a shipping experience, the flavor profile isn't at its best. Think of bottle shock after bottling. It's best to let it lie several weeks before opening.”

Have a box that’s gotten banged up? Sarah Gorman offers this gardening tip: “Materials that are damaged cannot be reused, however, if your shipping boxes are plain, unwaxed boxes with all tape and sticky labels removed, and with minimal printing on the outside, you can use them in your garden beds. Reusing cardboard for the garden provides compostable material, kills pesky weeds and develops a bumper crop of earthworms. Cardboard in the garden will also kill lawn grass and help you get a new bed ready for veggies, ornamentals or whatever you want to grow.”

 “The opportunity to ship wine has been a blessing to our industry,” says Sarah Gorman. “It’s truly saved us, in tandem with curbside pickup.”

Maggie Malick sums it up:  “Next time you visit, bring them along. Just let us know you have shipping boxes, and we'll gladly take them off your hands. After all, less waste in the landfill is a good thing, right?”

Here are some Virginia wineries that are happy to take back your wine shipping cartons and packing materials. If you don’t see your favorite on the list, just ask.


Northern Virginia


Central Virginia

Shenandoah Valley


Southern Virginia