Sustainable Brewing. Part IV: Landfill Diversion

Though water and energy come to mind first when thinking of natural resources and sustainability, it is also crucial for brewers to consider how to handle and reduce waste as each barrel of beer produces approximately 0.14 U.S. tons (280 lbs) of solid waste (Brewers Association, 2017). Landfill diversion practices include reusing byproducts of the brewing process, switching to more environmentally-friendly packaging alternatives, and improving recycling rates.

Byproducts of brewing can be sold or donated to farmers for cattle feed, as the spent grain is rich in protein, fiber, and other nutrients (Brewers Association, 2017). Though it does not contain the same nutritional content as the typical dried barley, each barrel of beer produces, on average, 36 pounds of spent grain (Olajire, 2012). Victory Brewing Company, for example, has three locations in Pennsylvania and sends 65 tons of spent grain per week to help feed animals in Chester County, Pennsylvania (Victory Brewing Company, 2019). In a survey to regional brewers, Hoalst-Pullen et al. (2014) find 100% of respondents collect their spent grain for other purposes. Feeding cattle is not the only alternative for spent grain, as other opportunities include making dog treats, cookies, and pizza dough (Brewers Association, 2017).

Another way to reduce waste is through switching packaging materials. Saltwater Brewery in Florida has developed a 100% biodegradable six-pack carrier from spent grain (Galanty, 2016). The “eco six-pack ring” (E6PR) is now being tested among a select group of brewers. The brewery claims that “When disposed of properly, the E6PR finds its way to a compostable facility, where it will degrade in days, and when, unfortunately, left out in open land or a water system, it will degrade in a matter of weeks. Another encouraging fact of our product is that it’s made from compostable organic materials that do not cause harm to wildlife in case of ingestion” (E6PR, 2019).

Corona, owned by AB InBev, has joined the microbrewery in this movement, stating in 20 November 2018 that it would shift away from plastic and use a plastic-free six-pack ring, becoming the first global beer to package this way (Pomranz, 2018).

Improved recycling rates are also important in reducing waste from both primary and secondary packaging. Aluminum cans, when recycled, are considered to have lower global warming potential and cumulative energy demand than glass bottles (Pasqualino, Meneses, & Castells, 2011). This is one reason why some breweries are converting their packaging to cans. Rising Tide Brewing (2019) states that cans are readily recyclable, require less cardboard, and generate less plastic waste.

However, some brewers that are recognized for glass bottle packaging have taken it upon themselves to improve recycling rates of glass bottles. New Belgium Brewing Company co-found the Glass Recycling Coalition to improve recycling infrastructure (New Belgium Brewing Company, 2019a) and believes in “Extended Producer Responsibility” (New Belgium Brewing Company, 2019b). This belief states that the producer’s role extends past the point of distribution and that the entire burden of recycling cannot be placed on the consumer.

Next up, Part V: Miscellaneous Practices


Brewers Association. (2017). Solid Waste Reduction Manual (pp. 1–41). Retrieved from _waste.pdf

E6PR. (2019). Product. Retrieved February 13, 2019, from E6PR Eco Six Pack Ring website:

Galanty, H. (2016, May 13). Saltwater Brewery Creates Edible Six-Pack Rings. Retrieved February 13, 2019, from Craft Beer website:

Hoalst-Pullen, N., Patterson, M. W., Mattord, R. A., & Vest, M. D. (2014). Sustainability Trends in the Regional Craft Beer Industry. In Regions, Environment, and Societies. The Geography of Beer (pp. 109–116). New York London: Springer Science + Business Media Dordrecht

Maine Beer Company. (2018). 1 % for the Planet. Retrieved May 26, 2019, from

New Belgium Brewing Company. (2019a). Carbon Emissions. Retrieved October 1, 2018, from

New Belgium Brewing Company. (2019b). Responsibility in Packaging. Retrieved October 1, 2018, from

Olajire, A. A. (2012). The Brewing Industry and Environmental Challenges. Journal of Cleaner Production, (2012), 1–21.

Pasqualino, J., Meneses, M., & Castells, F. (2011). The Carbon Footprint and Energy Consumption of Beverage Packaging Selection and Disposal. Journal of Food Engineering, 103(4), 357–365.

Pomranz, M. (2018, November 28). Corona to Test Plastic-Free Six-Pack Rings on Cans. Retrieved February 13, 2019, from Food & Wine website:

Rising Tide Brewing. (2019). Sustainability. Retrieved June 16, 2019, from Rising Tide Brewing website:

Victory Brewing Company. (2019). Victory for the Environment. Retrieved November 12, 2018, from

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