Environmental Impact of Beer

“I hope you are sat down”

Purpose of this article

To how the environmental impact of beer on our planet, to raise awareness and invite discussion.

Global beer consumption is growing steadily and has recently reached 187.37 billion litres per year. The UK is ranked 8th in the world, with 4.5 billion litres of beer produced annually.

This article shows the environmental impact of beer production in the UK, split in to 2 catagories:

  1. Production of 1 litre of beer.
  2. Annual production of beer in the UK.

Results & Discussion

Depending on the type of packaging (glass bottles, aluminium and steel cans), 1 l of beer requires:

  • 10.3–17.5 MJ of primary energy
  • 41.2–41.8 l of water
  • Emits 510–842 g of CO2 eq.

The results of the annual consumption of beer in the UK translates to a primary energy demand of:

  • over 49,600 TJ (0.56 % of UK primary energy consumption)
  • Water consumption of 1.85 billion hectolitres (5.3 % of UK demand)
  • Emissions of 2.16 mt CO2 eq. (0.85 % of UK emissions)

Production of raw materials is the main hotspot, contributing from 47% to 63% to the impact. The packaging adds 19% to 46 % to the impact depending on the packaging solution.

Beer in steel cans has the lowest impact for 5 out of 12 impact categories considered: primary energy demand, depletion of abiotic resources, acidification, marine and freshwater toxicity.

Bottled beer is the worst option for nine impact categories, including global warming and primary energy demand, but it has the lowest human toxicity potential.

Beer in aluminium cans is the best option for ozone layer depletion and photochemical smog but has the highest human and marine toxicity potentials.

Data from: The International Journal of Life Cycle Assesment.

Lets talk

It would be great to discuss this topic, talk about solutions to reduce the environmental impact of beer, projects you may be working on or to brewers that are already seeking and installing solutions in their own breweries.

We are on a mission to help the brewing industry reduce its impact, through both our brewery Good Things Brewing Co and our Zero Impact Brewing projects over at Crafted Crate.

“Lets change the way the world brews, together”