As any regular reader of this site knows, sustainability and beer are two things the TriplePundit community takes very seriously. This is, after all, the place that brought you 2012’s Green Brewhaha, an exhaustive series on the sustainability movement in the brewing industry. So, it goes without saying that when a craft brewer begins packaging its beer in a can made of almost-entirely recycled aluminum, it is big news here; it should also be big news to the rest of the beverage industry.
When Novelis was searching for evercan buyers, Red Hare seemed a natural partner. For one, Red Hare is small enough for a test run. (Illustrative of the company’s size, despite being a dedicated craft beer drinker I had never before heard of Red Hare and, according to the beer locating website Beer Menus, the nearest Red Hare purveyor is some 400 miles away. So a plea to Red Hare: ship the evercan to New Orleans distributors! We're a drinking -- and caring -- city!) For another, Red Hare has been can-only since the company's inception in 2011. As Novelis described it, Red Hare is a “small company with big ideas.” (Of course, both companies also happen to be headquartered in the Atlanta, Georgia area.)
The company is also laser-focused on ambitious aluminum recycling programs. As Novelis points out in its most recent sustainability report: “Recycled aluminum avoids 95 percent of the greenhouse gas [...] emissions associated with primary aluminum production – and also uses significantly less energy and water." In support of its recycling efforts, Novelis recently began operations at a new recycling facility in Yeongju, South Korea, the largest fully-integrated beverage can recycling system in Asia; it also started construction on a plant in Nachterstedt, Germany, which, when complete, will be the world's largest aluminum recycling facility of any kind.
In other words: This isn't Novelis' first sustainability rodeo, and when the company suggests that it is aiming for 80 percent recycled inputs and a 100 percent recycled evercan, one would be wise to believe it will get there or die trying. That type of ambition is vital if we are serious about combating the effects of global warming and becoming a more sustainable species. On that note, one hopes that other breweries will follow Red Hare's lead and look for more sustainable packaging options.
So, while the jury may still be out on whether bottles or cans are, in their traditional forms, more sustainable forms of packaging, it is clear that the evercan represents an advancement and one unique to the aluminum can. According to Georgia Tech Professor Dr. Thomas Sanders, interviewed by the AP for its feature on the evercan, more companies are likely to embrace a more sustainable packaging model because of the clear economic benefits of using recycled content. Given the number of craft brewing companies already using cans, as well as the sustainable bent of some of the industry’s leaders, one has additional reasons to be optimistic.
In the meantime, as consumers we can do our part by supporting Red Hare (by purchasing its beer and encouraging local distributors to stock it), urging our favorite brewing companies to follow Red Hare’s lead, and being more diligent about recycling.
Image courtesy of Red Hare Brewing Co.
Trained as a lawyer, I now focus on legal business development, corporate social responsibility (CSR), and business & human rights. My past experience includes work on complex commercial litigation, international human rights advocacy, education policy, pro bono legal representation, and analysis of CSR challenges in both the private and public sectors.