Making Rum Production More Sustainable

Rum production produces rather nasty wastewater which needs to be disposed of some how. The Serrallés Rum Distillery in Ponce, Puerto Rico produces DonQ, its main brand of rum, which is the most popular rum in Puerto Rico. It is one of the largest rum distilleries in the Caribbean with an annual output capacity of 15 million proof gallons. The company has spent a decade and $16 million on a new filtration system.

Serrallés used to dump its wastewater into nearby fields, but during rainy season the waste would run off and the distillery would have to shut down when flooding starting which cost the company $200,000 a year. A Fast Company article claims that Serrallés has turned the “$75 million distillery into one of the cleanest in the world.”

The filtration system also saves the company money, as Roberto Serrallés, the VP of business development points out. The wastewater produces biogas which the company uses to run its boilers. Serrallés, who is a sixth generation rum maker with a Ph.D in environmental studies from the University of Oregon, said that the system saves them “as much as nearly 50 percent of annual fuel use.”

“This is the ultimate in local production,” Serrallés said. “At the end of the day, we do this anaerobic process, reducing about 70% of the organic material. That wasn’t enough — we had to make this water irrigation-grade water. We end up with a 99% reduction in organic material.”

In an interview with, Serrallés said that the company’s reused water filtration system and its industrial composting operations are very important. He called the filtration system and composting operations the “two critical components of our industrial ecology perspective since the treated water will now be used for any service requirements at the distillery…and for any type of irrigation since it will be colorless.” Expanding the composting operation allows the company to divert more biogas from winding up in a landfill.

Bacardi is also making its operations more sustainable

Serrallés is not the only Puerto Rican rum maker to make its operations more sustainable. Its main competitor in Puerto Rico, Bacardi Limited released its 2012 CSR report a few months ago which highlights steps it is taking to reduce energy and water use, reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and source more responsible materials. Bacardi Limited is the largest privately held spirits company in the world.

Some of the highlights of the CSR report include:

  • Reduced water use by four percent over previous years and by 50 percent over five years
  • Improved water use efficiency by nine percent over last year, and 35 percent over the last five years
  • Beat its 15 percent reduction target in water use per unit of production
  • Reduced energy use over last year by five percent, and by 29 percent in the last five years
  • Increased renewable energy used by 60 percent since 2006
  • Reduced GHG emissions by seven percent year-on-year and beat its anticipated five year reduction target with a 37 percent reduction
  • Increased the number of supplier sites linked to Bacardi on Sedex, the database for sharing ethical audit data, by 39 percent

Photo: Flickr user, Roca Ruiz

Gina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by

Leave a Reply