Event22 July 2021

SMI Hub hosts first breweries workshop to find sustainable solutions for beer packaging

In June 2021, the SMI Hub kicked off its latest project ‘Sustainable Beer Packaging: Beyond Planting Trees’ with a workshop bringing together 9 of Manchester’s most thriving independent beer producers.

Plastic packaging and other materials such as bags, boxes, pallets, shrink wrap, bottles, cans, kegs, barrels and a whole lot more, are all essential to the business of brewing. However, the vast array of packaging materials can often have a negative impact on the environment through unintended consequences such as plastic waste leakage and a higher carbon footprint.

‘Sustainable Beer Packaging: Beyond Planting Trees’ is a free programme of work for environmentally conscious breweries in Greater Manchester to explore new opportunities for sustainable beer packaging. For small, independent breweries, understanding how packaging flows through their business and how better to embed sustainability can be a real challenge. However, our ambition for the project it to provide Manchester brewers with a fantastic opportunity to innovate and connect with their passionate customers.

The project kicked off on 4 June 2021 with a virtual workshop attended by 9 breweries based in Greater Manchester. SMI Hub Director and beer enthusiast, Professor Michael Shaver, introduced the Hub and the unique combination of scientific expertise, business insights and state-of-the-art facilities available to local businesses. The workshop gave breweries an overview of the project and a material breakdown of some of the main challenges they face in terms of packaging, including: shrink wrap and incoming packaging, one-way kegs, and cans/bottles. Further group discussion around these challenges triggered new ideas, exciting opportunities, and clarified next steps towards more sustainable brewing for this community.

This was our first experience of bringing together a community of businesses who share similar sustainability goals. It was great to see that the support we can offer through the Hub is needed by businesses across the region. There was a real sense of collaboration for an important cause and we’re looking forward to translating our discussion from the workshop into short and long-term opportunities for more sustainable brewing in Greater Manchester.

Hannah Barron | Industrial Liaison Officer | SMI Hub

The SMI Hub are now conducting a bespoke materials flow analysis for each brewery, to discover how packaging flows through their businesses and what happens to it at end-of-life. This analysis and further research will help us to make robust recommendations to reduce costs, resources and environmental impact for breweries. The programme will identify quick-wins and long-term opportunities to make Manchester’s brewing community the most forward thinking when it comes to great-tasting, sustainable beer.

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Mia Belfield


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