The rise of craft beer in cans might have made bin collection in a beer-loving household rather quieter each week but the disappearance of the sound of shattering glass doesn't necessarily mean it's made drinking beer that much less wasteful.
Disposing of plastic PakTech holders could be as simple as throwing them in the recycling bin and walking away but for the team at Bright Brewery working out how to get more life out of them has been a point of focus over the last few months. The brewery team has been rolling out recycling bins for any and all PakTech can holders in bottleshops and supermarkets across Victoria in the hope of recycling – or better yet reusing – as many as possible.
While many breweries and retailers have been accepting the items on a more ad hoc basis for some time, the people driving this at the High Country brewery believe the widespread nature of their scheme makes it an Australian first – one sales manager Evin Craney says was born over a beer with a mate.
“I was having a beer with a friend of mine who pointed out that she just had an absolute mountain of PakTech holders,” he says.
“She’s quite environmentally conscious and was just asking what the process of recycling or reusing them was, and I found I couldn’t really answer that.”
When they looked into it, they decided many of the options weren't ideal: a lot of holders disposed of in kerbside recycling aren’t always recycled due to contamination with other waste; and while some breweries trade used handles for beer or discounts, and bottleshops often willingly take them too, Evin says they wanted a system that was comprehensive and easier for retailers.
“We found there wasn’t any scheme where you could properly dispose of them or reuse them,” he says.
“All these bottleshops have been becoming the unofficial custodians of them because that’s where consumers are getting them from. But, if you bring in ten, the likelihood is you’re only taking one away, so bottleshops always have this absolute plethora of them sitting around.”
The initiative is just part of a wider focus on sustainability at the High Country brewery, where reducing their impact on the environment is a key pillar of the business. This includes widespread use of solar energy across production, studies into saving water, composting food waste, and sending beer smartly to cut down on fuel use.
They're far from alone in the industry too. While in Canberra recently, members of The Crafty Pint team were party to a late night conversation between Bright founder Scott Brandon, BentSpoke founder Richard Watkins, and Dan Watters, who oversees partnerships, community engagement and events at Capital Brewing. It involved an element of oneupmanship, but in a good way.
Initially, they were eager to highlight just how much power they were generating – and planned to generate in the future – from solar power. They then moved onto their projects to improve the way they used water at their respective breweries; there was no talk of who brewed the best beers or was selling the most, it was all about how hard they were striving to be increasingly sustainable businesses.
As for Bright's recycling bins, since the scheme launched a week ago Evin says a growing number of retailers have indicated they want to be on board, so the brewery team is working on ways to roll it out nationally – and involve the major retailers.
“I’ve just left A Point Of Difference in Mitcham and I thought [the owner] was going to cry because he was so happy he had something to do with them,” Evin says, pointing out that they're also in early talks with PakTech so both companies can work together on the program.
While the scheme will ensure the brewery doesn't have to buy as many holders for their own canning runs, Evin says it’s unlikely to save them money, given the work involved in cleaning and reusing the reclaimed items.
“We might not be buying as many but we’re spending more on labour,” Evin says. “What we really wanted to do was solve a problem that we felt was really rife through the industry.
“One of our key components is sustainability and authenticity and it’s just something we’ve always prided ourselves on. Any aspect or any small thing we can think of we’re trying to do.”
You can find other articles in our Going Green series here. Also, I should really pay a visit to one of those bins by the look of that photo at the top – Editor.