Producing beer is resource intensive. We use a lot of water, gas and energy, and we produce a considerable amount of waste. Challenging ourselves and our suppliers to minimise the resources we use, and to find useful or recyclable homes for the waste we can’t eliminate, is very important to the Fourpure team.
We can only manage what we measure. By constantly recording our consumption and impact, and their trends, we can understand our progress and help us to grow with sustainability firmly in our sights.
We’ve highlighted some of our initiatives below.
Meters, meters everywhere! We keep a weekly record of our water use, reading each meter religiously on a Friday. Since our first measured results in 2014 we have slowly but continuously improved from a ratio of 10:1 units of water per unit of packaged beer to where we currently stand today at 6:1, with a target of 5:1 for 2017 (always set goals). We’ve also invested in recovering wastewater from our water treatment facility to use for cleaning brewery tanks and floors.
DRY WASTE (packaging, consumables, etc)
There are some easy day-to-day wins in this area - We have structured training and awareness of sorting and separation of recyclable materials for brewery staff, we put pressure on suppliers to reduce use of non recyclable packaging (a big part of this was plastic shipping wrap) and full recycling of all products and food waste in our tap room.
In addition, we looked at our suppliers who provide us with contaminated plastic waste and have sourced a chemical drum repatriation scheme – we work with Klenzan (our chemical supplier) to repatriate used chemical drums to them. This allows re-use of the plastic drums themselves and reduces the potential impact of concentrate chemicals in general waste. We also repatriate the pallets the chemicals are supplied on with the return. We are not financially incentivised to do this and pay no deposits on containers or pallets.
We choose the word co-products intentionally - Brewing grains, hops and yeast are not waste to be disposed of – they are valuable resources that need to be best used. In the hierarchy of unwanted materials, the first stage is to destroy – i.e. send to landfill. Improving on this is to compost the material, a type of waste management. Better than composting is to feed livestock, which is an accepted form of waste avoidance. As our understanding and focus on where our co-products are used has increased we have been able to migrate from waste management to waste avoidance.
Since 2014 we have worked with Sustain (EU & Mayor of London scheme - http://www.sustainweb.org/foodwaste/) to divert co-products to the food chain which delivers considerably improved reuse. This scheme requires adherence with Feed Hygiene and other relevant safeguards. Over time we have intensified our efforts in this area as our production volumes have increased. We are currently feeding over 1000 cattle every week. We have given away spent grain to a local urban farm (Surrey Docks Farm), and are working with some masters students at Imperial College London to develop new sustainable business ideas.
There are a number of initiatives around the brewery to monitor and reduce energy use including;
Motion controlled LED lighting for our windowless cold rooms
LED based external lighting
An upgrade to 'inverter controlled' energy efficient scroll compressors for our chilling plant
Careful control of our hot liquor preparation to avoid unnecessary ramping or maintaining temperatures when not required.
Monitoring energy use in office and communal spaces, all staff are supplied with hoodies and told to use them! (seriously it’s freezing in there).
We have all empty cans delivered on re-usable packaging. Everything from the pallet to the layer sheets and top are fully re-usable. These are returned to Ball, our can manufacturer on a return leg of the delivery of new cans to us. We also transport empty cans without external plastic wrapping. This reduces our demand for wooden pallets and a huge amount of cardboard and plastic wrap. Our increased output and better forecasting this year has allowed us to increase the number of pallets delivered per load, reducing the carbon footprint of haulage.
We small pack into cans. Aluminium cans are infinitely recyclable in as little as 60 days from fill (according to the can manufacturers association). They weigh around 13 grams per container vs 237g per glass bottle. We have converted to CDL ends on our cans which are 10% lighter than the previous type.
Can more effectively store in cold room stores allowing more effective use of environmentally managed spaces and also have a positive impact on transportation offering reduced weight (501kg vs 823kg on a 60 box pallet). This allows pallets to be loaded to 108 trays of cans vs 60 cases of bottles) delivering increased efficiency in the supply chain. The reduced unit packaging mass of 224g of glass equates to a reduction in energy required in a venue (or home) to cool down the item. Energy is required to cool both the beverage and the bottle/can it’s contained within.
For packaging, our retail boxes are paperboard rather than corrugated. Pine trees, a renewable resource, are harvested from sustainably managed forest, renewable energy used to fuel our mills making virgin paperboard, virgin board is used to create packaging material, after use packaging is recycled to make recycled board, fibers can be recycled up to 7 times. Paperboard produced by Graphic Packaging International meets the requirements of both the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC). This ensures that our material is sourced from known and legal sources. Both schemes integrate the growing and harvesting of trees with the protection of biodiversity and water quality. These boxes are significantly thinner so we can get 4 times as many on each pallet of incoming materials. In each box we use PakTech “top” six pack holders for our cans with handles which are made from 96% recycled HDPE plastic.
During the pack process our new keg washer and CIP unit allow us to reuse chemicals and water multiple times until it requires replacement. The CIP unit dynamically assesses conductivity to return fluids to either a water tank, a caustic tank or an acid tank for reuse.
We have implemented a basic CO2 recovery solution to re-use the gas released during the fermentation. We also capture the CO2 from the BBT when we transfer beer into it, to purge brewery tanks. Due to limitations in the process and methods, this allows us to bring our beer from around 1.4 v/v levels (as seen in normal fermentation) to 2.0 v/v. We still have to use traditional purchased CO2 to adjust the beer to 2.5 v/v for finished product.
Moving ever increasing volumes of beer around can be labour (and energy intensive), we operate 2 x Renault Masters which have arguably the best payload of any 3.5 tonne rated goods vehicle. This means we can load more of our product onto each van, therefore fitting on more accounts per vanload. As we can do this, we increase our fuel efficiency and make less return trips. We also run a smaller van for the lighter loads to reduce the need for 3rd party couriers and HGVs. There is one gas forklift across all 4 of our sites, efforts are made to consolidate stock movements with delivering materials between the sites and to help maximise loads, we currently distribute for 4 American breweries, whose stock is delivered alongside our products
In transit we limit our journeys into the Congestion Zone as much as possible, currently only scheduling 2 vans on 2 days per week. Our Keg-tracking tool allows us visibility of how many kegs are at each account which gives us the power to build keg pickups into the routes, removing the need for journeys dedicated to keg pickups
For additional materials we source our pallets from a company that isn’t allowed to store them on-site, thereby reducing the amount of wood that may enter landfill. The cardboard sheets we receive from other breweries we hold stock for is recycled as packaging material to send on our products.
We can do so much more! The realities of running a start-up brewery, time, skills and focus are all dynamics that we must manage over the coming years to achieve continual improvement.