Chicago area breweries craft up way to fight climate change with beer can carrier reuse co-op

Beer can carriers are recyclable but 90% end up in landfills

ByTracy Butler and Blanca Rios WLS logo
Wednesday, February 21, 2024
Dozens Chicago area breweries craft up way to fight climate change
Dozens Chicago area breweries craft up way to fight climate change

WILLOW SPRINGS, Ill. (WLS) -- Climate change is bad for beer.

Recent studies show it's threatening everything from the crops and ingredients used to grow it to the very taste of your brew.

But don't let that kill your buzz.

A Chicago non-profit has crafted up a way for beer lovers to do good for the environment.

"We want to let people know that our favorite fizzy beverage is going to be impacted by climate change and there's something that we can do about it," said Alex Parker, founder of The Green Beer Project.

One example is through the way beer is handled and bundled.

"When the consumer takes their beer back from the liquor store or the brewery and puts them in the fridge and then puts their can carrier in the recycling bin like they've been trained to do, they're actually contributing to the problem," said Parker.

A can carrier is the plastic thingy that holds a four-pack or six-pack together. They're also known as PakTechs for the company that makes them. They are recyclable but 90% of can carriers actually end up in the landfill

"They fall through the cracks at recycling facilities," said Parker.

That is just one of the problems brewing in the industry that "The Green Beer Project" is working to fix. The Chicago based nonprofit fights climate change through beer.

They recruited 50 local craft breweries to participate in the Chicagoland Carrier Reuse and Recycling Co-op. Imperial Oak Brewing in Willow Springs is among them and has been collecting used carriers since May.

"We collect them all together and when we get about six months worth, I'll start working on cleaning them and put them in a bucket and wash them, then sanitize them and rinse them and put them back into rotation," said Grant Hamilton, co-owner of Imperial Oak Brewing. "Or we can throw them in our dishwasher if we want to do them in smaller batches. Unless they are cracked or broken or something of that nature, we reuse everything that is given to us."

And what's good for the climate is also good for their bottom line.

"We're saving money, we don't have to buy Paktechs rarely anymore," said Hamlton. "We collect them and the ones we get returned aren't always ones that came from our brewery, so I've been collecting those and slowly building a stockpile."

There are four main collection hubs and dozens of smaller collection points across the city. And the co-op hopes to spread the word.

"It's also important to ask your favorite breweries what they're doing to be sustainable. are they participating in a program like this, are they using organic ingredients are they are being mindful about how much water they use," said Parker.

"It taste good to do good. it kind of all comes together in a great way to help the cause," said Hamilton.

Paktech, which is the industry standard for these carriers does have a recycling program as well.

But this co-op makes it a whole lot easier for local breweries and their customers to participate.

Here's a link to all those participating breweries and collection points.