Good practice

Converting distillery waste into a product and energy

Converting distillery waste into a product and energy
© serhiibobyk, #275151639, 2019, source:
Materials, Waste
Waste management and recycling
High cost
Annual saving:
40 - 50%
Payback time:
2 - 3 Year(s)
Resource savings: Raw material:
Corn is replaced by spent grain (waste from breweries)
Associated cost savings: Raw material:
40 - 50%
Associated cost savings: Energy:
30% / 1500000€
Associated cost savings: Waste:
Return on investment:
Depends on the biogas plant size
Co2 emission reduction:
Approx. 56000 tonnes of CO2 saving per annum
Premises and operation areas:
Waste and recycling
Size of company:
Small (less than 50), Medium (less than 250), Large (more than 250)
Advancement in applying resource efficiency measures:
Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced
One off investment:

Waste not want not...

  • Company reconsiders waste as a by-product to achieve huge energy savings
  • The approach cuts waste volumes, which has positive impacts on operating expenses

Diageo Ltd. is the world’s largest spirit manufacturer, producing brands such as Johnnie Walker, Buchanan's and Bushmills whisky and many others. As a large operation, Diageo Ltd. is able to make big environmental commitments.

By using technology and reconsidering waste management, the company set out to source 20 % of its primary energy requirements from own-generated waste by 2020 and up to 80 % by 2050. 

Key benefits

To achieve these goals, Diageo Ltd. integrates waste-to-energy technology in a form of anaerobic digesters (AD), also known as biogas plants. In the UK, the company redirects about 130 000 tonnes of 'spent wash' - a mixture of spent grain that is used as a feedstock - to AD for generating renewable energy. 

This new technology and approach to waste saves on transport costs, reduces landfill and supplies 80 % of the electricity and 98 % of the thermal steam needed in the distillery. Altogether, these measures reduce annual CO2 equivalent emissions by 56 000 tonnes.

This is a great example of how reconsidering waste management can generate financial benefits to companies. This technology is also available for different sized distilleries and breweries.  



“Diageo have always been at the forefront of sustainable innovation, but do not overlook the efficiency of traditional practices which have been effective for many years. Our RoseIsle and Cameronbridge plants are state-of-the-art, but these are only sustainable where production is on such a large scale. Local farms benefit from the spent grains produced from our smaller distilleries, and this is considered more effective when the infrastructure is not in place to support bioenergy facility creation.” -- Diageo Ltd.

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