Once you reach a certain stage of product production, things that were previously insignificant become something you need to consider. Managing distilling waste is a headache for distillers of all sizes, but the larger you grow, the more significant the problems can become.
The methods used to dispose of a small amount of waste may not be the best way to handle a large amount. It may require adjusting your plan to ensure you don’t end up with mountains of waste or fines for improper disposal. Proper disposal methods may vary from one municipality to another, so always consult your local authority before implementing any disposal plan.
Distilling waste can come in various forms, and each requires an individual action plan for proper disposal. Some waste streams can be recycled back into your system with minimal external impact, while others require appropriate processing before disposal.
One of the main waste streams from distilleries is process water. Dealing with it can be either straightforward or challenging depending on the regulations you have to adhere to and the cleanliness of the water. If you’re not using a closed-loop system, you can potentially recycle the grey process water from your cooling and heating systems for other applications such as cleaning water. Alternatively, with approval from your municipality, it can be sent down the drain. Tails, another wastewater source, may also require special attention.
Copper Distillation Equipment
Dealing with spent grain can be a bit more complex because you have to consider both solid and liquid components. If you’re rinsing and sparging, you already have a reasonably good separation of solids. However, if you’re distilling on the grain, you’ll likely need to use a grain separator to remove as much water as possible. There are many reasons why drier material is preferable; if it will be disposed of off-site, transporting the extra water weight would be wasteful in terms of fuel.
Spent grain contains valuable nutrients and is rich in vitamins, so landfilling is not the best option. Farms and bakeries can be ideal places to unload your spent grain. If it’s going to a farm, most livestock prefers drier feed over a slurry. Since spent grain spoils within a few days, having options for reprocessing and sending it elsewhere can help avoid sending it to a landfill.
Heads may not contribute much waste volume, but they can be problematic in some municipalities. Some distillers have experimented with recycling heads into the system for the next batch to recover usable alcohols and enhance flavor. Others use them as stainless steel cleaners or send them to laboratories as solvents and reagents. Regardless of the method chosen, make sure to comply with your local municipality’s preferred disposal method.
Managing distilling waste is not a one-size-fits-all effort, and everyone will encounter their own unique solutions and challenges. Each municipality has different processing capabilities and requirements, so always consult with them first. Sometimes, you need to be creative and find alternative solutions.
If local farmers and bakeries are uninterested, perhaps a fertilizer plant or another processor would be interested in the solids or wastewater you generate. Network with local producers in other industries as this can yield positive results. What are some of your most innovative waste management solutions? Contact Kate at my email: email@example.com