Water companies across the UK have agreed to waive fees for permitted disposal of waste beer to public sewers to make the process easier ahead of the reopening of pubs and bars on 4 July.
Water UK and the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) have issued a joint call for licencees to get in touch with water companies as soon as possible to avoid disappointment, given the potential environmental and operational challenges of this scale of beer disposal.
Water UK chief executive Christine McGourty said: "We obviously have to consider the environmental problems that can be caused by putting large quantities of beer in the sewer system, where it can reach rivers and waterways. It’s important this process is managed carefully to avoid any damage to fish and marine life.
“The quicker landlords can get applications in, where there’s no alternative disposal route, the easier it will be for water companies to help them open in time, and we’re all looking forward to that.”
United Utilities - which looks after water services in the north-west of England - told The Morning Advertiser (MA) that it had received around 2500 applications so far.
Welsh Water said it had heard back from around 43% of businesses identified as needing to dispose of products.
Additionally, Yorkshire Water has heard from more than half of the 4,300 pubs in its region to arrange for the disposal of products and said it was working to contact more.
The BBPA estimated 70m pints of spoilt beer will have to be thrown away due to the coronavirus crisis with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) highlighting the environmental impact of huge volumes of beer being poured away at the same time.
In a letter to the BBPA, Environment Secretary George Eustice 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.”
Licensees have been sharing their experiences of getting rid of old stock on social media, posting the video evidence of the disposals required by breweries.
A spokesperson for United Utilities said: “Disposal to sewers is not usually permitted because if too much beer is disposed of at one time it could adversely affect wastewater treatment processes.
“However, we are allowing premises, who are unable to find alternative disposal methods, to apply in advance to us for permission to dispose of waste beer to our sewers. We are offering this service free of charge in recognition of the difficulties the hospitality industry is currently facing.
“Traders should make their applications in good time to allow us to plan disposal schedules to protect our treatment works and the wider environment.”
A Welsh Water spokesperson added that as beer was potentially very polluting it needed to ensure any disposal into the sewerage network was done with care and control.
They explained: “This is to ensure that there is no impact on the sewerage service we provide all our other customers and also that there is no harmful impact on the environment in our care."
Anglian Water said it had been contacted by around 1,200 pubs in its area and had allowed pubs to dispose of already opened containers from April.
Anglian asked pubs to contact them with their address, volume, premises details, so it can take into account how their volume of beer would affect its systems and water recycling centres.
A spokesperson explained: “On receipt of this information, our scientists have then undertaken operational assessments to provide establishments with written permission including discharge start and end times, along with flow rates and other important details to protect the environment.”
Dan Rowe, trade effluent manager at Yorkshire Water, added: “It is important landlords with surplus stock contact Yorkshire Water before discharging it into the sewer system so we can manage the impact the disposal has on our network and treatment works.
"Our primary concern is protecting the environment and it is important we understand when and where stock will be discharged to prevent any possible impact on local environments.
"We are working hard to provide them with details on how to dispose of stock safely.”
Emma McClarkin chief executive of the BBPA added: "It is vital that pubs are able to open their doors and get back to serving their customers and local communities as soon as possible from 4 July.
"We would encourage all landlords and publicans to get any applications in to water companies as soon as they can to ensure a smooth process ahead of 4 July."
Pubs should get in touch with their water companies via email with relevant information about their stock. The BBPA has also published guidance on the retrieval of containers and destruction of beer on its Covid-19 policy page.