In between every stack of 750 mL glass bottles is a hard sheet of blue plastic. As soon as it’s pulled from between those layers, this blue sheet becomes waste (to us as a brewery). Unless, that is, we find someone else who has a good use for that big sheet.
In reality, you could use it to make a sign, you could use it to protect stored goods, you could even cut it up and build a birdhouse with it. The options are many. This is the long and the short of a process called side streaming, where we find another life for our brewery’s waste.
Norm, of Justice Farms, who picks up all of our spent grain.
One of the more heartwarming stories of waste (never thought we’d write that) concerns our spent grain. After brewing, the husks of grain have been sapped of much of their sugars, and can be discarded. We build up around 60-70 tons of spent grain every week from brewing—that’s up to 140,000 pounds. To dispose of it organically, we actually give the grain to Norm, of Justice Farms. Year-round, he pumps out our spent grain silo about once per week, and trucks the grain up to cow farms in his area of Gorham, Maine.
Below, you’ll find some of the more interesting ways we’ve been able to give new life to brewery waste:
- Donated large and small grain bags to various causes, from veterans groups to colleges to tailors.
- Donated used 5-gallon sugar jugs to maple farmers.
- Donated used chemical drums to various causes, from dock builders to chum suppliers.
- Donated ice packs from yeast deliveries to caterers.
- Donated expired production hoses to other breweries and a local biofuel manufacturer.
Some sidestreamed materials have to be saved up, so that we’re not shipping tiny packages that turn out to be more wasteful than helpful. An example of this would be corks. We collect corks from our own beers and from others through a bin in our tasting room. Once we’ve stored up enough, we send them to Re-Cork, a company that makes sandals and yoga bricks (among other things) out of used cork.
And some items just can’t be re-used in any other form. That’s where we have to go straight back to the source, to make sure they’re being properly recycled. Pak-Tech can carriers are the example here. These plastic carriers are made from previously recycled milk jugs, and are actually a bit too strong for your average recycling plant to break down effectively. So we’re piloting a program where brewery guests, and even other breweries, can hand over Pak-Tech carriers to us. Once we build up a big enough bundle, we’ll ship them to our partner, Clynk, who will source them to be properly recycled.
The Allagash Green Team is constantly looking for ways to improve sustainability across the brewery.
The emphasis on sidestreaming has been a large part of our effort to keep our waste out of the landfill. If we consider all waste Allagash produced in 2017, we achieved the impressive number of 99.8% waste diverted from the landfill. Now, we’ll be the first to tell you that that number is heavily influenced by spent grain and grain dust. We use a LOT of grain. However, even if you take away spent grain/dust, we still sidestream around 87% of our waste. In more specific terms, this means that for every barrel (31 gallons) of beer, we create 2.4lbs of recycling—including all zero-sort bins and bulk/baled materials—and .31 lbs of trash. And while we’re proud of this number, we’re always looking for ways to reduce it to zero.