There’s a lot of pressure on the environment when it comes to making beer. For every eight-ounce serving of beer, you need 20 gallons of water. Additionally, beer containers are manufactured from glass and aluminum, packaging products are produced from plastic, and refrigeration is used at home and retail. Despite technological advancements in the last 20 years, beer production continues to face major environmental challenges, such as energy usage, water consumption, wastewater discharge, solid waste disposal, and emissions from byproducts.
Could climate change undermine the long-standing practices that have governed the beer industry for hundreds of years, from agriculture to trucking? The answer is no; help is on the way. There is an emerging trend of reducing the environmental footprint of large beer manufacturers through innovation and technology. This article discusses how beer production impacts the environment and how it can be reduced.
What Is The Environmental Impact Of Beer?
Beer brewing is a process that uses a lot of energy to heat water and malt in the mash tun, to boil the wort in the brew kettle, and for cooling. These steps require large amounts of water and electricity, which can lead to excessive water use, water pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, the solid waste and byproducts produced from the brewing process can lead to soil and water contamination. Following are some factors that contribute to the negative environmental impact of beer.
There is a high energy demand and a large amount of water used in the brewing process. Water is blended with malt, hops, and sugar extracts to produce beer, which is then fermented with yeast. Processing raw materials into the final beer product is done in batches in the brewing industry. In addition to the production of the beer itself, large amounts of water are used after each batch to wash, clean, and sterilize various components. Most of this water goes down the drain.
The Carbon Footprint Of Glassmaking, Malting, And Barley Production
Making beer has a negative environmental impact that is mostly attributed to barley production, glass manufacturing, and malting. Using recycled glass reduces the energy consumption of the glass part of the equation significantly. Since stainless steel kegs can be reused, they have a smaller impact. The environment would benefit greatly from a market strategy based on refillable containers and kegs.
Traditionally, barley is grown using repetitive tilling and fertilizer and pesticide applications. In addition to fertilizers, no-till, and low-till methods can help reduce carbon footprints. The carbon offset is less likely to happen because intensive tilling disrupts organic carbon storage. It is necessary to steep, germinate, dry, and sometimes roast barley to make malt. There is a high environmental cost associated with drying and roasting because they require electricity and heat.
Wastewater Discharge Of Breweries
Pollution of surface and ground waters may be caused by oil products, chemicals, and lubricants from the wastewater discharge of breweries. The physical, chemical, and biological qualities of surface waters can rapidly deteriorate if brewery wastewater is not treated before discharge. As they decompose, they deplete the water’s dissolved oxygen, a vital ingredient for aquatic life. Aquatic plant growth in water bodies will be stimulated as a result of phosphorus and nitrogen compounds being released into wastewater.
Additionally, the primary link in the food chain may be affected by turbidity and color. Regardless of whether the energy produced in an incinerator can be utilized to reuse or recycle solid waste, the waste must be disposed of at a landfill. Waste chemicals generated by breweries are generally hazardous. This means that waste disposal needs to be managed properly to prevent any contamination of the water bodies, as well as any damage to the environment.
Air Emissions From Breweries
A brewery’s primary air emissions are odors and dust. Breweries emit odors primarily from the boiling process. Using and storing grains, sugar, and kieselguhr is the major source of dust emissions. The odors are a result of the boiling process, which releases volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air.
The dust is created from the use and storage of grains, kieselguhr, and sugar, which are small, powdery particles that can easily become airborne and spread through the air. Additionally, breweries may be responsible for the emission of other pollutants, such as nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, and sulfur oxides. These pollutants can also affect air quality, so breweries must work to reduce or eliminate their emissions.
Truck Transportation And Refrigeration Of Beer
There is a significant environmental cost associated with truck transportation to distant markets. Refrigeration at retail contributes about 25% of the total carbon footprint along the beer supply chain. Temperatures should remain cool and consistent when storing beer. Especially as beer travels further away from the brewery, shelf-life stability is an ongoing concern. For brewers to sustain quality throughout the beer-drinking process, they must also reduce their environmental impact.
To reduce these environmental impacts, beer brewers can look for ways to optimize their processes, such as by reducing energy and water consumption and finding creative solutions for recycling or repurposing byproducts. Furthermore, they can evaluate their transportation and packaging methods to reduce their carbon footprint.
They can also look into using renewable energy sources, such as solar, instead of relying on fossil fuels and implementing more efficient brewing techniques, such as using heat exchangers and other energy-saving technologies. Through such steps, breweries can not only reduce their environmental impact but also make their operations more cost-effective and efficient.
Moreover, they can promote sustainability by investing in green initiatives such as recycling and composting, minimizing plastic packaging, and using organic ingredients when possible. By making these small changes, breweries can make a big difference in the environment and their bottom line.
I am a passionate beer connoisseur with a deep appreciation for the art and science of brewing. With years of experience tasting and evaluating various beers, I love to share my opinions and insights with others and I am always eager to engage in lively discussions about my favorite beverage.