Romanian breweries prioritize transitioning to renewable energy sources

Green Forum
Romanian brewing companies have invested in advanced wastewater treatment factories to treat and reuse water and reduce the pollution load on local water bodies. Transitioning to renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, or biomass is also a priority for brewing companies in Romania. Brewers are also adopting brewing processes that require less energy to reduce overall energy consumption, said Julia Leferman, general manager of the Brewers of Romania Association, in an interview for Green Forum.

How important is sustainability in this sector and what measures is the Brewers of Romania Association taking locally?

The Brewers of Romania Association, which represents 90% of the beer production in Romania, from small to very large brewers, as well as raw materials providers, is actively pursuing a sustainability agenda within the industry.

The specific actions are taken by the producers themselves. As a general approach, circularity is one of the main driving forces behind the green transition of the brewing sector, together with the goals of the European Green Deal. Romanian breweries are optimizing their processes to reduce water consumption. This includes recycling water within the production process and implementing more efficient cleaning procedures.
Brewers have also implemented advanced wastewater treatment plants that are being used to ensure that the water released back into the environment meets high-quality standards.

Also, breweries are investing in renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power to reduce their carbon footprint. They are upgrading to energy-efficient brewing equipment and implementing energy-saving practices throughout the production process. Of course, the Romanian Brewers are optimizing transportation routes and investing in eco-friendly vehicles to lower emissions.

One key aspect of our members' sustainability actions is prioritizing the purchase of locally sourced raw materials to reduce transportation emissions and support local economies. We are actively engaging with suppliers to ensure sustainable farming practices for barley and hops.

These measures show a comprehensive approach to sustainability, reflecting the Brewers of Romania Association's commitment to reducing the environmental impact of beer production and promoting a more sustainable future for the industry. As part of our ‘grain to glass' approach, the brewers have transformed their brewing processes, their supply chains, and how beer is consumed – by putting sustainability at the core of their operations.

Locally, the Brewers of Romania Association stands at the foundation of the Romanian Deposit and Return System (DRS), the largest circular economy project in the country, and the largest integrated DRS in Europe.

What are the main projects regarding sustainability within the association?

The implementation of the Romanian DRS is our main project on sustainability. The Brewers of Romania have put their efforts into this project since 2018, the year when the idea was born. After five years of planning, constant dialogue and research, numerous government changes, and evolving consumer trends, the

Romanian DRS was launched on November 30, 2023. The system promotes separate collection and recycling of drink containers to meet European Union (EU) targets, by giving a financial value to drink containers to incentivize returns.

Romania joined the other 13 European countries that had already introduced a DRS. The system is the second-largest DRS in Europe, and the world's largest centralized national DRS by volume of containers so far.

The system will span over 7 billion drink containers each year, positioning Romania as a regional leader in packaging collection and sustainable initiatives for a cleaner environment. The DRS covers all beverages (except milk) in single-use glass, plastic, or metal containers with volumes ranging from 0.1 to 3 liters.

Under the DRS, the consumer pays a deposit of 0.50 RON (equivalent to approximately €0.10) when purchasing an eligible, labeled drink. After consumption, consumers can bring the empty container to an automated or manual return point located at retailers, where they will be refunded the deposit as a voucher or cash. Containers can be returned to all stores that sell eligible beverage containers.

The targets for plastic bottles include a separate collection rate of 77% by 2025 and 90% by 2029. Through the DRS, Romania plans to achieve a minimum 90% collection rate as of 2026, ensuring drink containers can be turned into new bottles and cans again and again, driving a circular economy.

What are the biggest obstacles to implementing sustainable policies?

The lack of collaboration in society, perhaps the low trust between government, industry, and NGOs, and the ever-changing regulations that do not ensure the right framework for long-term investments are the biggest obstacles. The implementation of the Romanian DRS also represented a new and collaborative approach that led to faster progress in other directions as well.

We need a policy framework that fosters a fair approach by recognizing brewers' leadership, supporting best practices already in place, and ensuring that all competing sectors step up in cutting waste.

Take packaging, for example: whether it's glass bottles, aluminum cans, or kegs, the packaging is indispensable for storing, transporting, and enjoying beer. That's why brewers have innovated and invested over many years to make our packaging ever more circular and sustainable, ensuring our sector has a positive impact on the planet.

Financial constraints can also be an obstacle. Sustainable technologies and processes often require significant upfront investment, which can be a barrier for small and medium-sized breweries with limited financial resources. Also, the financial benefits of sustainability initiatives might take years to materialize, making it difficult for businesses to justify the expenditure in the short term.

How polluting is the beer industry and what solutions should companies in the sector find?

Water usage is one field where the beer industry has a more consistent impact on pollution levels. Brewing beer is water-intensive, requiring about 3 to 7 liters of water to produce 1 liter of beer. This includes water for brewing, cleaning, and other processes. Then, wastewater from breweries can contain organic matter, cleaning agents, and other pollutants that need to be treated before being discharged. Now, the biggest Romanian brewing companies have implemented systems to recycle and reuse water within the brewery to significantly reduce water usage. They are also using dry or low-water cleaning methods to help conserve water.

Also, Romanian brewing companies have invested in advanced wastewater treatment plants to treat and reuse water and reduce the pollution load on local water bodies.
Transitioning to renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, or biomass is also a priority for brewing companies in Romania. Brewers are also adopting brewing processes that require less energy to reduce overall energy consumption.

A big preoccupation for Romanian brewers is sourcing ingredients locally and from sustainable producers to reduce the environmental impact associated with transportation and farming practices. Unfortunately, the share of local agricultural raw materials in beer production has decreased to 50% today, down from 70% seven years ago. We are actively engaging with the Ministry of Agriculture to promote efficient measures for the farmers so that they are encouraged to cultivate barley and hops.

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Green Forum  |  15 July, 2024 at 11:00 AM
Green Forum  |  15 July, 2024 at 10:00 AM