- Ecospirits, a refillable beverage packaging service, is launching in Las Vegas at the South Point Hotel, Casino & Spa in 2024. The company’s Ecoplant, a semi-automated, containerized spirits processing plant, operated in partnership with 17A Stillery, will be its third in the United States.
- In place of single-use glass bottles, hospitality establishments working with Ecospirits use the Ecotote, a container that can hold multiple bottles-worth of liquid, which is designed to have a lifespan of at least 100 cycles. The Ecotote consists of glass, HDPE and aluminum. The glass inner vessel is surrounded by a shock-resistant chassis.
- To make the Nevada expansion a reality, and set up the opportunity to scale in an area full of potential hospitality clients, the team worked to ensure compatibility with the back-of-house “pump room” systems used by many casinos in the state.
Glass may lend itself well to closed-loop packaging systems that encourage reuse.
Whilst glass is considered highly recyclable, it can cause wear and tear to recycling equipment, and some municipalities may not accept it for recycling if they face higher costs due to a lack local end markets. Where reuse can be adopted for back-of-house distribution systems, it creates efficiencies even without widescale consumer adoption.
“A high volume pump room has several 1.75L single-use glass bottles of spirits attached to the system at any one time,” said Zdenek Kastanek, managing director of Ecospirits USA, via email.
Ecospirits saw the opportunity for their closed-loop solution to be used in casinos, a high-volume and high-waste environment, if they could work with the “pump room” system that casino bars typically use to dispense spirits. The company developed a connector so that the casinos could swap out glass bottles for Ecototes with ease, and without making big adjustments to their existing systems. With this in place, the system can dispense alcohol from large tanks into the Ecototes, which hold the equivalent of multiple bottles. After the Ecototes are empty they are sanitized and prepared for reuse.
South Point, described as one of the city’s largest casinos, will be the launch customer in January 2024. The resort, located a few miles south of the Las Vegas Strip, includes a 64-lane bowling center, a 16-theater movie complex, 11 restaurants and six bars. The company expects to add more customers in Las Vegas.
17A Stillery will be the host for the Ecoplant. It’s a distillery producing moonshine from a traditional recipe, and it was founded by Brendan Gaughan, whose family also owns South Point. “We expect the Nevada Ecoplant to add more and more spirits (from several producers) in Ecotote format over time, so that casinos and other venues in the Nevada area will be able to choose a selection of low waste spirits for their bars,” said Kastanek.
Closed Loop Partners invested growth equity in Ecospirits in 2023, leading a $10 million series A funding round. "Reuse is at a critical stage of development, requiring continued testing, investment, supportive policy and collaboration to scale responsibly and mitigate unintended consequences," a Closed Loop spokesperson said via email. With headwinds around glass packaging recyclability, the firm sees reuse systems as an opportunity for businesses to reduce waste while improving their economics.
Ecospirits was founded in Singapore in 2018. It expanded to the cruise ship market earlier this year in partnership with Carnival and Bacardi. This continued growth is part of a beverage industry trend toward using less glass in certain applications. Other recent initiatives have included glass lightweighting and the use of alternative packaging.
“When spirits are packaged in Ecotote format in the pump room area, it will dramatically reduce the amount of glass and cardboard packaging waste,” Kastanek said. “It also saves time, because staff will no longer have to sort through and store this glass or spend time separating it out for disposal.”