five beers on a tasting board.
No. 1 for Brewery Waste Management

Brewery and Distillery Waste Management

Running a brewery, distillery, or cidery is big business in the UK. The country has a rich brewing history dating back thousands of years while Scotland is renowned for its whisky production. There’s been a boom in craft beer, especially in recent years with microbreweries popping up on industrial estates all over the country.

It’s a thriving industry with around 2,500 breweries, 800 gin distilleries, and more than 200 whisky distilleries active across the UK (unsurprisingly Scotland has over 140 alone). One thing every brewery, distillery, and cidery must manage effectively is its waste – whether you produce a few bottles or many barrels of alcoholic drinks each week.

At Business Waste we can help collect any type and amount of waste your brewery or distillery creates wherever you’re based in the UK. Get a free no-obligation quote to see how you can save money and we can assist with your brewery’s waste disposal needs. Call 0800 211 8390 or contact us online today.

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Get a free quote

Get a fast FREE quote for your brewery waste collections

  • Free quote within 1 hr
  • Any type of waste
  • FREE bins and delivery
  • We cover all of the UK

Waste management for 
breweries and distilleries

Every brewery, distillery, and cidery has a duty of care to manage all waste it produces responsibly. Rubbish from your brewery classes as commercial waste so must be stored safely on site and removed by licensed waste carriers. It should then be disposed of at authorised facilities in an appropriate manner depending on the waste type.

Within your brewery or distillery, you should follow the waste hierarchy when managing refuse. This means finding ways to reduce, reuse, recycle, and recover waste in that order. Reviewing your operating processes and finding ways to prevent and minimise waste production should be the priority, followed by ways to reuse any of it.

Having sufficient bins across your brewery is vital for effective management. These should be secure and removed regularly to avoid overflowing bins and hygiene issues developing. Using a variety of bins to separate your brewery waste also helps increase recycling efforts. Our brewery and distillery waste management services can help:

  • Breweries – nano breweries, microbreweries, brewpubs, craft breweries, farm breweries, independent, and contract breweries.
  • Cideries – independent cideries, farm cideries, chain cideries, those that specialise in perry, still or sparkling, and other ciders.
  • Distilleries – micro, artisanal, craft, and commercial distilleries that produce whisky, gin, rum, and any other types of spirits and specialist drinks.

Brewery and distillery 
waste products

Brewing and distilling creates many specialist waste products, such as:

  • Spent grain, malt, and potato (draff)
  • Trub (solids from liquid wort)
  • Waste yeast and apples
  • Spent hops
  • Pot ale (liquid distillation residue)
  • Spent lees (liquid distillation residue)
  • Used kieselguhr (filter material)

Most brewery waste products are therefore kinds of food and liquid waste that must be removed, stored, and disposed of responsibly. Distilleries and breweries generate a wide range of other waste types that vary depending on their size and operations. Brewery and distillery waste products can include:

  • Liquid waste – wastewater from brewing and distilling processes, cleaning, and other liquids used.
  • Food waste – waste apples from creating cider, leftover fruits added to flavour beers and spirits, waste potatoes from distilling processes.
  • Cardboard recycling – packaging waste such as boxes used to deliver ingredients for brewing and distilling.
  • Wood waste – wooden pallets used for shipping large items and quantities of ingredients and goods.
  • Glass recycling – broken bottles from the bottling line, any empty bottles if there’s a taproom or shop on site.
  • Sanitary waste – every bathroom in the brewery or distillery must have sanitary waste bins even if there’s only one toilet.
  • General waste – food scraps, non-recyclable packaging, and other waste.
  • Dry mixed recycling – combine cardboard, paper, plastic, and metal in lower volumes if there’s not enough for a dedicated bin.
man holding hops in a brewery.

Bins for breweries and distilleries

Safe storage of all waste your brewery, cidery, or distillery produces is essential. We provide free bins to save you money on your waste management. There are no rental fees or delivery charges – you only pay for collection. Select from waste bags and wheelie bins to static containers if you’ve got the space.

A wide range of bins, bags, and containers are available to store everything from liquid waste to broken glass, food waste, and cardboard recycling. Combine the best types and sizes of bins with a collection schedule that’s cost-effective. These are some popular bins used by breweries and distilleries:

View all bins
  • IBC containers

    Use an IBC to store most types of liquid waste from your brewery or distillery, including wastewater, alcohol, and hazardous waste.

  • Front end loaders

    Store high volumes of dry waste such as cardboard, mixed recycling, or general waste in these large static bins.

    wheelie bin.
  • 1100 litre wheelie bins

    The largest available wheelie bins that can hold various types of recycling or general waste and are easy to move.

    wheelie bin.

How does brewery waste collection work?

Process Block

How to manage waste in 
breweries and distilleries

Brewing and distilling naturally produce by-products including spent ingredients and wastewater, while bottling, canning, and packaging products also create waste. The types and amount of rubbish breweries and distilleries generate depends on their size, operations, and factors such as whether there’s a bar or shop onsite – but efficient management is vital for every business.

Start with an audit of your current operations and waste management processes across your brewery or distillery. Review what bins you already use and the types and volumes of waste your operations create each day. This should help you identify any opportunities to use recycling bins or if you need larger or smaller bins.

Use the waste hierarchy to assess if there are any areas where you can reduce waste. From this, you could set targets and build them into a detailed waste management plan. This should include information such as where waste is produced, stored, when it’s removed, who by, and how often – so there’s a clear trail.

Ensure any seasonal changes are accounted for as production amounts may fluctuate throughout the year, which impacts your waste too. Put a clear waste policy in place and train staff to follow it so you can reduce waste at the source, increase recycling, and ultimately benefit the environment and your business’s bottom line.

man carrying barrels in a brewery.

Brewery waste recycling and recovery

Recycling cardboard, glass, paper, metal cans, and some plastic waste from breweries and distilleries is simple. Store them in separate bins and arrange collection by a responsible waste management company that transports them to a recycling facility. Here they’ll be checked, sorted, and recycled alongside similar materials – ensuring effective brewery waste recycling.

When it comes to spent grains, hops, yeast, food, and other organic materials you should seek out natural recycling methods rather than disposing of it with general waste. Research has shown brewery waste disposal methods can differ depending on whether the brewery is in an urban or rural location.

However, some common ways to dispose of brewery waste such as draff, trub, and waste yeast in an eco-friendlier way are recovery by:

  • Animal feed – this is the most common method breweries use to get rid of spent grain (but it can also be used for waste food and some other organic waste). Many farms and even some animal shelters will take it off your hands to feed livestock and animals, which puts it to good use.
  • Composting – draff, spent grains, hops, and dust, waste yeast, used kieselgur from beer filters, and culms from malting can all be composted. Licensed waste carriers can transport it to industrial composting sites where it breaks down naturally alongside other organic waste.
  • Fertiliser – another disposal method for spent grain by some breweries is to send it away to be converted into fertiliser through means other than composting.
  • Energy from waste – burning some such waste from breweries and distilleries can generate energy (heat or power). This is only possible with the appropriate machinery and processes in place to minimise the release of greenhouse gases.
  • Anaerobic digestion – food waste and draff, pot ale, and spent grains from breweries can go to anaerobic digestion plants. Here they’re used to generate biogas and fertiliser (from the waste left behind during the process).
whisky barrels in a distillery.

Alcohol waste disposal

As a brewery, cidery, or distillery you can’t just pour litres of alcohol waste down the drain. Such large-scale improper alcohol waste disposal could seriously disrupt the wastewater treatment process, which isn’t designed to remove alcohol from water. Instead, you should follow these guidelines for safe and responsible alcohol waste disposal from your business or home.

How to dispose of alcohol in the UK

Breweries and distilleries should store any waste alcohol in an IBC container, barrel or drum onsite. Then arrange removal by licensed waste carriers who will transport it to a waste management facility for treatment and disposal. To dispose of alcohol in the UK in smaller amounts you can contact your water company to check if it can be poured down the drain.

At home, you can dispose of small amounts of spoiled, expired, or waste alcohol down the drain. Dilute the waste alcohol with water first and only pour a maximum of two or three bottles away. Should you have many bottles of waste alcoholic drinks check if your local household waste recycling centre (HWRC) accepts them.

Is alcohol hazardous waste?

Generally, any products with an alcohol percentage of 24% or higher may be considered a type of hazardous waste. This is because there’s an increased risk of ignitability as it’s a flammable liquid that poses a risk to human health and the environment during disposal. Anything with less than 24% alcohol is usually classed as liquid waste.

Check with your waste collection company or local authority whether the alcohol you need to dispose of should be treated as hazardous waste or not. They should advise on the best way to store and get rid of it safely and legally.

How to reduce hazardous waste

Arrange brewery waste collection

Get a free no-obligation quote for waste collection from your brewery, cidery, or distillery anywhere in the UK. Let us know what types and rough amounts of waste you want collected, where from, and how often for a tailored quote. Using our nationwide network we’ll help you save on your waste disposal costs.

We also provide free bins with no rental, delivery, or hidden fees – you only cover collection costs. Choose from daily, weekly, and fortnightly collections with ad hoc removals and flexibility around seasonality possible. You get a free duty of care certificate for all waste removed for added peace of mind.

Call 0800 211 8390 or contact us online today for your free quote. Speak to one of our friendly experts for a fast answer to any of your questions or for more information about managing waste from your brewery, cidery, or distillery.

Get your free quote
two men raising glasses of beer in a brewery.
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Get a fast and free quote

Get a fast FREE quote for brewery waste removal

  • Free quote within 1 hr
  • Any type of waste
  • FREE bins and delivery
  • We cover all of the UK