Circular economy in the brewing chain

Main Article Content

Alessio Cimini
Mauro Moresi


beer chain, beer packaging formats, brewer’s spent grain, brewer’s spent yeast, carbon footprint, environmental impact, hot trub, post-consumer packaging waste, disposal methods, spent hops


The main aim of this review was to check for the applicability of the concept of circular economy to brewing chain. By analyzing the beer brewing process, it was possible to identify the main brewery wastes formed and packaging materials used as well as their range of composition and yields. In order to reduce the contribution of packaging material to the carbon footprint of beer, it would be necessary to replace one-way containers used nowadays with lighter, reusable, or recycled ones. Even if the contribution of beer consumption phase was taken into account, there was no definitive solution about the less environmentally impacting beer packaging format. The direct management of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) packaging for liquid foodstuffs could make available 100% recycled PET flakes to be reconverted into food-grade bottles with minimum downcycling to other non-food usage. The countless potential uses of brewery wastes in nutritional and biotechnological fields were tested in laboratory by disregarding any cost–benefit or market analysis. This was mainly because the estimated market price of dried brewer’s spent grain (BSG) resulted to be about 450% higher than that of conventional lignocellulose residues. All the alternative uses hailed in the literature appeared to be more useful for publishing articles than for defining any economically feasible reusing procedure for all brewery wastes. Owing to their high moisture content, such wastes are so perishable as to prevent their safe usage in the human food chain. Currently, their use as-is in animal feeding is the disposal method not only economically feasible but also able to reduce the greenhouse gas load of beer packed in glass bottles (GB) by about one-third of that associated with packaging materials. Not by chance, it is practiced by most industrial and craft breweries.

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