Britain’s drinkers are among the heaviest boozers in Europe, and responsible for one of industry’s biggest headaches: how to deal with the waste generated by the production and consumption of alcohol.
These are the findings of BusinessWaste.co.uk, one of the UK’s leading waste management companies.
The research shows that alongside the familiar sight of bottle banks and tin recycling, brewers and distillers are having to deal with a growing mountain of byproducts from their business.
While bottles and tins are easily and readily recycled, some brewers have traditionally just poured away their waste products, the company says.
‘The consumer would be shocked if they knew of the waste behind their favourite tipple. But the truth is that they’re only just coming to grips with a centuries-old problem.’
According to official statistics, every year Britons get through:
Around 70% of British people say they drink alcohol on a weekly basis, with larger numbers of younger people bucking the national trend which had previously shown a decline in adult drinkers.
‘Aside from the obvious health risks, we can report that up to 50% of alcohol containers aren’t recycled and end up in general waste bins. As an environmental health check for the nation, that’s not particularly good.
‘That means millions of tonnes of glass and aluminium not being recycled every year, and that’s a terrible waste.’
The waste issue is just as pressing in the brewing and distilling trade. Figures show that the Scotch whisky industry alone produces 500,000 tonnes of solid waste every year, and a staggering 1.6bn litres of waste liquids.
While the solid waste (called ‘draff’) is usually spread on agricultural land, the liquid (‘pot ale’) is sometimes just poured down the drain.
There’s hope that chaff and pot ale can be turned into other products, and a process has just been revealed that turns the two into useful chemicals such as acetone, and fuels like butanol and ethanol.
‘That’s the kind of ‘out of the box’ thinking that could save the distilling industry thousands every year’, says BusinessWaste.co.uk ‘s Mark Hall. ‘Not only in cutting their waste bills, but selling their by-products as a premium product.’
BusinessWaste.co.uk says that other sectors of the drinks industry should take a look at their byproducts to see if there is a viable alternative to waste.
‘With raw commodities becoming more expensive every day, it means that the gap between waste and value is narrowing’, Hall says. ‘New processes could save the booze industry from a financial hangover, but they’ve got to invest first.’
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