Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland

How micro-brewers and distillers can reduce their environmental impact

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

How micro-brewers and distillers can reduce their environmental impact


As the owner of a micro-brewery or distillery, it can often be difficult to know exactly where your environmental responsibilities lie.

Without the benefit of a dedicated staff specialising in environmental legislation, it is easy to get confused about what you should and shouldn’t do to ensure your impact on the environment is minimal.

With these difficulties in mind, NetRegs has devised this helpful guide to let you know exactly what your obligations are and to offer advice on good practice.


What is the environmental impact of breweries and distilleries?

The brewing and distillery industries are two of the largest industrial users of water - the accepted industry standard ratio is one barrel of beer to four and a half barrels of water.

Alongside this, energy consumption, wastewater, waste by-products and air emissions remain key issues when it comes to the environmental impact of breweries and distilleries.

Although micro-brewers and distillers may not have as much of an environmental impact as larger companies do, they may need a little more help with managing their sustainability efforts. 


Your legal responsibilities

There are a number of legal regulations that micro-brewers and distillers must adhere to. Concerning water use, specific requirements must be met relating to water quality, monitoring and risk assessment. If you want to discharge liquid waste to a public sewer at the end of the brewing or distillery process, you must have a Trade Effluent Consent form from the sewage provider.

The use of cooling towers is also regulated – if you use one, you must notify your local council in the first instance and find out if you need a pollution prevention and control (PPC) permit.

Concerning waste products, you must comply with a duty of care. This means it is vital that you produce, handle and store waste without causing harm to the environment.

Additionally, you must comply with packaging regulations if your business manufactures, supplies or handles packaging or packaging materials. This will be relevant to you if you package your own product, as many micro-brewers and distillers do.


Ways to reduce your environmental impact

There are so many simple steps you can take towards reducing your brewery or distillery’s environmental impact. Some are even as easy as swapping your existing lightbulbs for energy-efficient ones...

  • Reduce energy where possible
    • The brewing and distillery processes are extremely energy-intensive – it is essential that you not only reduce energy use where possible, but also make sure that the energy that you do use is as green as possible.
  • Use water efficiently
    • Demand for water continues to increase, so it’s vital you use it wisely. Recover as much water as possible from the brewing process and consider using it to supply your air compressors and refrigeration system. Buying new water-efficient equipment has a large upfront cost, but it will save you a lot of water and money in the long run.
  • Limit waste output
    • It’s also crucial to try to reduce your brewery or distillery’s waste output. Make sure the packaging you use is recyclable and the organic waste is being used for agricultural processes to cut down on what is being sent to landfill. If you have remaining general waste, consider installing an incinerator which can then recover some of its energy.


If you make the effort to increase the sustainability of your micro-brewery or distillery, you may find that it benefits not only the environment, but your finances too. Further advice can be found on the NetRegs site, including a savings calculator which can reveal how much you could be saving by investing in sustainability.

Visit NetRegs today for further guidance about the environmental obligations of the food and drink sector -make sure you also sign up to our newsletter so you don’t miss out on any environmental updates. 


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