Caybrew full steam ahead on the green train

While many businesses in Cayman aspire to be green, Caybrew, Cayman’s award-winning local brewery, has been a leader in doing its bit for the environment.

With 14 million beer bottles dumped at Mt. Trashmore every year the big “green” item garnering attention for Caybrew is its decision to initiate a bottle return system, an idea which is common practice all over the world.

“Even if there comes a time when an environmental levy on import and disposal is introduced, the impact of manufacturing, shipping and reusing bottles is still there,” said Caybrew’s Commercial Manager James Mansfied.

“The environmental impact is much lower if we just keep bottles on the island and reuse them.”

Bottles that are returned last 10 to 20 uses depending on how well they are treated. That means 10 to 20 fewer bottles per 10 to 20 beers that are drunk by any one person making their way to Cayman’s ever-growing landfill.

That’s a lot of bottles.

Out on their own
“The company is constantly looking for options and opportunities to be greener,” said Mr. Mansfield.

Bottle returns is one.  Since the bottle return began, Mr. Mansfield says the number of people returning bottles is increasing, though the return rate is only 40 per cent.

The company is aiming for 80 per cent as seen in places like the Bahamas with well established return programs.

Mr. Mansfield thinks the number of people in Cayman from places that support bottle returns likely impacts the return rates.

“But because Cayman does have quite a high population turnover, we are now reinvigorating our campaign to remind people about returning their bottles as Cayman has a high rollover.”

It’s not just bottles Caybrew is concerned about. Mr. Mansfield points to a huge pile of new Caybrew boxes stacked in the warehouse ready to be filled with beer bottles.

“This is what we are trying to eliminate,” he said.

“We are hoping that we can encourage bar owners to help us reduce the amount of cardboard we use.”

The company is encouraging bars to use reusable plastic crates to store their Caybrew bottles rather than using cardboard cases that end up in the garbage.

“Many people working in the service industry come from places that reuse or recycle bottles, a lot of them are used to it already,” said Mr. Mansfield, and the number of bars asking for the crates is growing.

“We think it is also due to a growing social conscience here in Cayman,” he said.

“But, some bars are embracing the practice more than others,” he admits.

Return has a payback

Caybrew bottles can be returned to the brewery in Red Bay, but what Caybrew drinkers may not know is that they are also being collected by Ocean Frontiers in East End, and by Liquor for Less at the corner of Shedden Road and Eastern avenue.

“You can take your cases there for a $2 refund,” said Mr. Mansfield.

“We are definitely looking for other businesses or organizations to participate.”

Caybrew also comes in cans, and Mr. Mansfield says there is a change taking place as well on that front.

Caybrew’s biggest cans customer is Calico Jack’s. Through a new initiative, the bar now collects the cans which are picked up weekly by National Recycling.

Mr. Mansfield says he is glad to hear Calico’s wants to spearhead the practice and encourage other bars that use a lot of cans to follow suit.

However, the largest amount of beer Caybrew sells is draft, which happens also to be the most environmentally friendly form of beer packaging.

The company is already thinking of how to further the benefits of kegs, and are developing a small returnable beer keg.

“You can keep it in the fridge, and it is perfect for boats and the beach as well,” said Mr. Mansfield.

“We try to keep product development up with environmentally friendly ideas in brewing.”

Not just packaging
In terms of waste management, returned bottles are washed in a high tech dishwasher which not only cleans out their insides but also removes the labels.

“The residue water coming out is so clean it meets European bathing standards of water quality,” said Mr. Mansfield.

Right now the water is being pumped into the ground, but the company is working on finding a cost-effective way to transport it to places like the Botanic Park and the rugby club so that it can be used for irrigation.

In addition, spent grains from the brewing process are collected every few days. Instead of heading to the landfill, they are available free of charge to local farmers for feed.

All farmers need to do is call the brewery to find out the days it is available.

The company is also looking into the possibility of installing a windmill to augment its energy needs. Using a lot of energy at least for the time being is one aspect of running the businesses that’s non-negotiable.

But for now, the strides Caybrew has made to do good for Cayman’s environment are hard to dispute. And all we can say is: cheers to that.