Manchester Breweries

Sustainability advice and understanding plastic packaging flows

Greater Manchester has been at the centre of a craft beer revival over the past 5-10 years, now boasting some of the best microbreweries in the UK – if not beyond! This active community of small breweries across Greater Manchester is ever-evolving, and many of its members are keen to take decisive and robust action toward more sustainable operations and products.

In engaging with a cohort of 11 local microbreweries, we were able to identify both shared and individual challenges regarding the packaging they receive or use when supplying trade and retail customers. These initial conversations progressed into site visits wherein packaging types and volumes for both incoming and outgoing products were assessed. The data-oriented visits were also supplemented by conversations with key players in the supply chain including packaging manufacturers, maltsters, and waste contractors.

From this holistic snapshot of each brewery’s operations, we produced bespoke plastics flow diagrams that illustrated the volumes of plastic packaging involved in each product category (grain, hops, kegs, cans, bottles, etc.). These results were presented via an in-person, interactive workshop, after which various categories of plastic packaging and their likely fates (landfill, incineration, or recycling) were discussed. Furthermore, brewery-specific and cohort-specific recommendations for specific products were provided to motivate short-term actions, whilst the longer-term opportunities for the brewing sector were envisioned that required collaboration with their supply chain. Taken together, these outputs enabled each participant to make more informed decisions on how to improve the sustainability of their plastics use.

This project was led by SMI Hub Industry Liaison Officers Adam Peirce and Hannah Baron, as well as SMI Hub Postdoctoral Research Fellow Guilhem De Hoe. Given the scope of work involved in the workshop presentations, data collection visits, and data analysis, contributions from the rest of the SMI Hub team were crucial to this project’s success.

Next steps

The breweries are taking forward the free sustainability advice to implement short-term changes in their packaging use, including changing what they purchase or modifying practises to reduce consumption. The plastic flow diagrams have helped inform the potential impact from changes in each area of operations, so that each brewery can strive for the largest amount of positive, robust change with maximum efficiency.


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