The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) estimated 70 million pints of spoilt beer will have to be thrown away due to the coronavirus crisis.
Some publicans have experienced push-back from water companies about pouring huge amounts of beer down the drain because of the potential for environmental problems and pressure on sewers.
Officials from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) met with Water UK – the trade organisation that represents the UK’s water companies – representatives to discuss the latter’s concerns for a common protocol for disposal.
In a letter to the BBPA, seen by The Morning Advertiser, DEFRA secretary of state George Eustice outlined why some water companies have asked for pubs to hold off on disposing of beer.
He said: “Given the potential for waste beer to impact wastewater treatment processes by virtue of its chemical characteristics and sheer volume, water companies need to carefully manage the flow of waste beer to their wastewater treatment works.”
Eustice added that water companies had objected to the suggestion of a common protocol as individual treatment works have different capacities for handling waste beer and so a location-specific approach was necessary.
However, given that many pubs are gearing up to open within a matter of weeks and will need to restock their cellars, water companies have agreed to take steps to speed up and help this process as much as possible.
Steps for reopening
Water UK confirmed in a letter on Monday 8 June that water companies will be waiving fees for permitted disposal of waste beer to public sewers.
Other steps are that publicans can contact wholesale water companies directly, rather than going through a water retail company and do not have to make individual applications for disposal across multiple sites.
Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the BBPA, said: “We have had a progressive, ongoing dialogue with Water UK and have agreed a number of measures to streamline the process for companies or licensees seeking authorisation for destruction of beer from their local water wholesaler.
She added: “Time is ticking however and with the reopening of pubs imminent, we need to continue to work together to ensure that licensees are supported and are able to prepare to resume trading as soon as it is safe to do so.”
DEFRA said it was also investigating other avenues for pubs to dispose of wasted stock. This could mean pubs transfer beer to anaerobic digesters or spoilt beer is incorporated into the production of animal feed.
Water UK and DEFRA had not responded to requests for comments by the time of publication.