This Scientist Breaks Down Why This Type of Packaging is Best for the Environment

Unsurprisingly, craft brewers are already using the first and second-most sustainable containers, with cans becoming more and more popular.

The most sustainable option, explains Dr. Mark Falinski — at least from a waste and global warming standpoint — is beer on draft.

“Cans are more recyclable than bottles, they require less energy to produce, and since they are lighter, they also cut down on carbon emissions during transportation,” he told Brewer recently. Falinski is a sustainability scientist at Finch, where he helps consumers use science to make more informed and sustainable choices.

While cans are the best option for drinkers on the go, the way those cans are held together is not, Falinski warns.

“Tetra-Paks (clip-on can holders) are technically #2 plastic, which is widely recyclable across the U.S.,” he said. “However, most recycling facilities actually will not accept Tetra-Paks and recycle them, so they get sent to the dump instead.”

Falinski suggests that breweries open up return areas for Tetra-Paks, which can allow for reuse by a brewery, and assurance that the plastic isn’t just being sent off to a landfill.

READ MORE:​ ​How These Breweries Have Stepped Up Sustainable Packaging

“Another option is returning to those rings, which also are not recyclable, but since they are lighter-weight, they produce less overall waste than Tetra-Paks, while also likely having a lower carbon footprint,” he said. “There are obvious concerns about ocean waste and the rings catching onto animals, but educating customers on their benefits, plus ensuring the rings are either perforated or cut by the drinker before throwing them out can go a long way.”

Of all options though, Falinski said the best option for packaging more than one beer together is a paperboard-based box.

“These are highly recyclable (68% vs. almost 0% for the other options), and although they have a slightly higher carbon footprint, they are naturally biodegradable and can be made using a renewable resource,” he said, adding that breweries should be more insightful in their purchasing decisions.

“Just make sure to source those boxes from a place that is FSC or SFI certified, which ensures that each tree used is replaced by a new one,” he added.

Photo courtesy Mother Road Brewing

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