Carolina Beer Guy: Breweries join recycling co-op

GO GREEN: Breweries must discard large quantities of material that's difficult to recycle. A new program started by Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. is helping area brewers keep those items out of the landfills. Photo by Ashlee Mooneyhan; courtesy of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

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.

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About Tony Kiss
Tony Kiss covers brewing news for the Xpress. He has been reporting on the Carolina beer scene since 1994. He's also covered distilling and cider making and spent 30 years reporting on area entertainment. Follow me @BeerguyTK

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One thought on “Carolina Beer Guy: Breweries join recycling co-op

  1. Raleigh-ite

    Speaking of recycling, I’m going to stop buying Catawba beer in cans until they stop the practice of wrapping their aluminum cans in a plastic-wrap label. The beer is fine, but the plastic-wrap makes the can non-recyclable unless you first peel off the plastic, which isn’t recyclable. What’s worse, I unwrapped the plastic from a PB Jelly Time beer can, and plastic color bits, no bigger than the head of a pin, stuck to my hand and flew into the air. This is the kind of micro-plastic that is getting into our water supply, and must be stopped. According to Consumer Reports, each person in the US is ingesting a credit card’s worth of plastic each week, from what we eat and drink, the effects of which are unknown.

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