Sewers at risk from spoilt beer

Pub operators must seek permission from their water company before disposing of stale beer this week. Those that don’t could risk missing Saturday’s reopening of England’s hospitality sector.

Water UK, the water industry trade body, warned that wildlife could be harmed if large quantities of beer are washed away and end up rivers and waterways.

“It’s important this process is managed carefully to avoid any damage to fish and marine life,” said Water UK chief executive Christine McGourty.

On July 4th, pubs across England can open again (though some have been operating takeaway and delivery services). However, some 70m pints of beer have been left on pub premises since the UK entered lockdown in late March, according to the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA).

Beer that has become unsaleable as a result of the Covid-19 shutdown will therefore need to be destroyed in the pub. Guidance is available on the BBPA website.

But with the government only announcing an end to the lockdown last week, water companies are concerned there could be a flood of unwanted beer into the sewers.

Pubs must therefore seek the permission of their water company before disposing of beer into the sewer. “We obviously have to consider the environmental problems that can be caused by putting large quantities of beer in the sewer system, where it can reach rivers and waterways,” McGourty explained.

She added that the quicker landlords make applications – where there is no alternative disposal route – the “easier it will be for water companies to help them open in time”.

Publicans are being encouraged to consider other options for repurposing any spoilt beer, for example as an addition to animal feed or to feed into anaerobic digestion. A robust risk assessment needs to be undertaken, however, said Water UK.

Water companies have made disposal applications “simpler” and waived fees. “We would encourage all landlords and publicans to get any applications in to water companies as soon as they can to ensure a smooth process ahead of July 4th,” said BBPA chief executive Emma McClarkin.

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