Retail drinks category - beer and cider

The combined waste from beer and cider in the UK supply chain is far greater than wine and any other food or drink sector.  It offers significant opportunities for business and environmental savings to be made through more efficient use of energy, water and raw materials in the manufacturing process alone.

This category covers lager, ale, stout, cider, perry and fruit wines.  Packaging formats include glass and plastic bottles and aluminium cans.

  • Around 28.6 million barrels of beer are consumed a year in the UK, of which about 90% is made in the UK and the rest imported.
  • 6,921,000 hectolitres of cider and perry are sold each year.
  • Lager is the highest selling in the UK over ale, cider or perry.

Scope for making efficiences

The UK’s beer and cider sector has been proactive in reducing its environmental impact.  Ales in particular have made a significant shift to lighter weight bottles.  

However, it is estimated that the whole sector still contributes approximately 700,000 tonnes of primary packaging to the UK waste stream with about 60% arising from households.  Better use of primary and secondary packaging, through lightweighting, adopting reusable solutions, etc., can lead to significant cost savings on transportation, storage and waste disposal.

Supporting the retail supply chain

Through the GlassRite initiative and Courtauld Commitment 2, major players within the supply chain have been working with WRAP to reduce beer and cider packaging waste.  Such changes can lead to broader commercial benefits, including increased sales and a raised consumer profile.  Other activities include promoting greater awareness of glass forming technologies and how these could assist with further lightweighting opportunities. 

Lighweighting

Glass bottles vary not only in pack size, but also by weight.

At a minimum, 10% of weight could be removed from most bottles, with little change to design or impact on consumer recognition.  For many heavier or larger bottles, this could be as much as 25%.

Helping the consumer

Many drinks containers are recyclable and are designed for recyclability.  Industry is supporting this with on-pack labelling. 

Consumers dispose of 67 million litres of beer and cider 'down the drain' (sink) a year.  Solutions to reduce drink waste in the home (770 million litres) could include introducing new design closures (e.g. screw caps and vacuum stoppers) to extend the product's shelf life. 

Increasingly we are seeing retailers and brands informing their customers about the steps they have taken to reduce a product's environmental footprint, e.g. through lightweighting or recycled content.