Endless reams of shrink-wrap and plastic straps, big empty grain sacks, clunky wooden pallets and lots of used cardboard — these are some of the materials brewing businesses handle and dispose of on a regular basis.
“Most breweries rely on the same recycling methods that you and I do at home,” says Robin Gregory, director of communications for Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. “And that means they’re unable to recycle many of the materials that they use every day.”
To help reduce industry waste, Sierra Nevada began working in 2019 with American Recycling of Western North Carolina to plan the Western North Carolina Brewery Recycling Cooperative, a recycling drop-off site in Candler. Along with breweries, the program is open to small businesses.
Scheduled to launch May 1, the site will be open 6 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday, accepting cardboard, aluminum cans, metal scraps, glass bottles, mixed paper, pallets, industrial bulk sacks, plastic malt bags, shrink-wrap and film, and plastic strapping. No fees will be charged for depositing materials, but anyone using the site must be registered in advance through the Asheville Brewers Alliance.
Additional participating breweries include Asheville Brewing Co., Bhramari Co., Buchi, Burial Beer Co., Catawba Brewing Co., Hi-Wire Brewing, New Belgium Brewing Co., Wicked Weed Brewing and Zillicoah Beer Co. New Belgium continues to use its own previously established recycling system but joined the co-op to support the program, according to Michael Craft, the brewery’s community and communications ambassador.
Several breweries that spoke with Xpress describe this effort as a significant moment for the local beer industry. “We always try to take cleaner and greener steps, but that can be difficult sometimes,” says Asheville Brewing Co. head brewer Pete Langheinrich. “We use a lot of grain bags; that’s our No. 1 waste item. So having a place to take them is great.”
Jeremy Chassner, co-founder of Zillicoah Brewing, echoes Langheinrich. “We have so much material over here that typical recycling doesn’t take, and it piles up,” he says. And while several local breweries pitched in to help make the site a reality, “Sierra Nevada did the heavy lifting on this,” Chassner emphasizes. “We’re excited to see how it turns out and use it.”
For details on joining the WNC Brewery Recycling Cooperative, visit the Asheville Brewers Alliance website at avlbrewers.com.