If you’re a beer drinker who’s also concerned about the environment, you’ve probably learned to look the other way while taking a swig. The unfortunate truth is, from brewing to packaging to shipping to recycling, most beer isn’t exactly environmentally friendly.
Common sense tells you that drinking local helps cut down on a beer’s carbon footprint—that is, if the brewery isn’t importing hops from Germany to New York. But if what you’re drinking wasn’t brewed just down the street with locally sourced hops and barley, what do you do?
If you’re Carlsberg, you team up with ecoXpac, a company that does nothing but make 100% biodegradable molded fiber packaging. These two companies—along with Innovation Fund Denmark and the Technical University of Denmark—will be bringing the Carlsberg Green Fiber Bottle to market within the next three years. This, beer drinkers, is the world’s first fully biodegradable beer.
Senior packaging innovation manager Håkon Langen told Quartz,
The bottles will be made of a single piece of sustainably sourced wood fiber or paper pulp, and will have an inner coating to protect and safely transport beer (similar to the inner coating of a milk carton). Bottles can be recycled as easily as newspapers or cardboard, and will be fully biodegradable—including their caps.
Langen also stresses that the taste of the beer will not be affected. “We never compromise on beer quality,” he said.
If the Green Fiber Bottle Project isn’t sounding awesome enough already, Langen also says these bottles will keep beer colder for longer than aluminum cans—which, by the way, are currently far more environmentally friendly than modern beer bottles of any color.
So what’s wrong with beer and the environment?
Carlsberg is right to be concerned about its glass, because shipping beer in glass has a very heavy carbon footprint. Green glass is even more problematic, because not every recycling facility accepts green glass. A few companies like EnviroGlas and The Green Glass Company recycle glass bottles into beautiful, functional products, but they’re only two companies. What Carlsberg is about to do is international in scale, so it really has the potential to change the beer game for the better.
Both brewers and beer nerds alike can (and will) argue about this forever, but the fact is, some brewers are more interested in environmental sustainability than others. As Stringers Beer brewer Jon Kyme told the Guardian,
Kyme’s brewery, for example, uses only 100% renewable energy. But just because an individual brewery is environmentally conscious about one aspect of brewing, doesn’t mean that brewery uses sustainable practices on every level.
Just take a look at the tons of spent grain that result from brewing, which typically ends up going to waste. One small Bay Area company called ReGrained repurposes those spent grains into baked goods, and some breweries like Ireland’s N17 find other creative outlets such as growing mushrooms and making dog biscuits with spent grain. Keep the creative solutions to minimizing waste coming, beer community.