I just came across a website called Triple Pundit, a hairy-legged, tree hugging website that apparently cares as much about the environment as it does about commerce. What do they think this is, the 21st century? 🙂
The article that caught my attention was about the environmental atrocity that is aluminum mining, and how craft beer’s recent shift to selling beer in cans may sully the industry’s otherwise sparkling reputation for being green. This is news to me, as I’ve heard lots of folks saying how much better cans are for the environment. According to the article, every step of the aluminum mining, manufacturing and raw material transportation is awful for the planet and craft brewers who use cans are promoting this destruction.
So bottles are the way to go then, right? Not so fast, because another article on the same site makes it clear that there is no easy way to determine if cans or bottles are better for Mother Earth. Here’s an excerpt that encapsulates the debate. I’ve kept their links active because they point to some good source material:
In evaluating the environmental impact of cans versus bottles, there are many factors to consider, including raw material sourcing, processing techniques, recycling rates, the distance of the container manufacturer to the brewery, and the distance of the brewery to the distribution point.
Most certainly, manufacturing aluminum cans is extremely resource intensive. The mining, refining, processing and transporting of bauxite ore, from which aluminum is derived, leaves an extensive trail of carbon emissions in its wake. Contrastingly, bottles are made from the more abundant resource silica and glass processing has lower overall emissions rates.
However, the recycling rate for glass in the US is only 28% compared to the nearly 55% recycling rate for aluminum cans. Moreover, beer bottles contain only 20-30% recycled glass in comparison to the average beer can that is made of 40% recycled aluminum. Recycled aluminum requires 95% less energy and produces 95% less greenhouse gas emissions than manufacturing new aluminum.
So aluminum wreaks havoc on the environment when it’s produced, but cans are recycled at double the rate of bottles and they are 95% less resource-intensive to recycle. Add to this the fact that cans are lighter and therefore require less energy to ship to the store shelves, and the water in this debate becomes muddier than the slurry running off a buaxite mine.
I think the only respectable thing for me to do is to get a kegerator and buy my beer exclusively in reusable corny kegs. I’m sure my wife will understand. Don’t be pissed honey, I’m saving the planet!