Environ Trust, the Leicester-based sustainability specialists, has won 90% landfill tax funding of £82,544 from Biffaward with the balance to be met by Leicestershire TEC, to investigate the commercial and practical realities of the ‘zero waste’ philosophy in the brewing industry. Phase two of the study will include all the major industrial waste producers in Leicestershire, to find out what are the major waste streams and if a zero emissions approach will work.

‘Zero Emissions’ or ‘Total Resource Management’ is based on the premise that there is no such thing as waste, a concept pioneered by Gunter Pauli, the Belgian industrialist who oversaw the extraordinary growth of Ecover a few years ago.

In Japan, where the idea has been embraced with the same enthusiasm as Just In Time (zero inventory) and Total Quality Management (zero defects), Zero Emissions is the latest standard of resource efficiency. Fuji Zerox, NEC, Honda, Sharp, Hitachi, Sanyo and Coca Cola Bottling Japan are just a few of the companies that are taking it seriously.

Some thirty breweries in Japan have adopted the zero emissions approach to add value to their waste by developing the required ‘industrial ecology’ around their waste streams. What this means in practice is growing shitake mushrooms on spent grains; the spent grain quality is enhanced by the mushrooms and sold as high quality chicken feed; the chicken waste provides the feedstock for a methane digester which produces heat used by the breweries; and sludge from the methane digester is used to feed algae which provides a food source in fish farms.

While UK breweries have shown there interest in the concept, there are practicalities like industrial zoning and the market for products like shitake mushrooms, chicken feed and sludge to be explored before a similar industrial ecology could be made to work here.

“With a local brewery providing a ‘reality check’ for our work, we will answer the unanswered questions about zero emissions in the UK context,” said Dave Corbet, business development manager at Environ Trust.

Conference date

“Our next task will be to start the process of networking needed to make this concept work on a regional level, by inviting local and national businesses to a free conference on the 20th of July, where we will explain the principles behind zero emissions.”

Delegates will hear speakers from Environ Trust, Breakthrough Technologies and the Taiheiyo Cement Corporation. To register, ring Environ Trust on 0116 222 0222.

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