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Zero waste brewery
I thought y'all might appreciate this information on a brewery that
supposedly uses all its wastes as value-added inputs to other
processes/activities, primarily agricultural, but not just growing
grass as is commonly done in the US.
First Non-Waste Beer Brewery
Mon, 27 Jan 1997
A new brewery in Namibia (Southern Africa) that sounds too good to
"good beer, no chemicals, no pollution, more sales and more jobs"
When Werner List, the octogenarian chairman of Namibia Breweries
learned from Prof. George Chan, a septogenarian scientist that it is
possible to brew beer and generate no waste, he could not believe it.
But, as a veteran in the brewing industry with 60 years of
experience in making beer according to the purity principles of
German tradition, he gave the professor the advantage of the doubt
and decided to listen to this Mauritius-born and Imperial College of
London trained civil engineer. To his surprise, the proposals made a
lot of sense for him and his country.
Prof. Chan is not doing any magic, he is simply applying the
principles of nature: whatever is waste for one, is food for someone
else. "Only industry is capable of producing things no one wants".
Pr ofessor Chan had applied the Zero Emissions concept developed by
the European industrialist Gunter Pauli to the fermentation
industries. Zero emissions -according to Pauli- is nothing more than
the continuation of the drive of industry towards higher levels of
productivity. After the zero defects (total quality), zero accidents
(total safety), zero inventory (just-in-time), zero emissions means
that all raw materials will be fully used.
Namibian Breweries had decided to construct a sorghum brewery in
Tsumeb, a five hours drive North of Windhoek, the capital city, and
wondered if the zero emissions concept could be applied in the des
ert. Funded by the United Nations University (UNU), George Chan
undertook the field visit in the summer of 1995, and he concluded
that it was not only feasible, it was necessary. Less than 18 months
later, on January 31, 1997 the first phase of the project will be
inaugurated by HE President Sam Nujoma, an honor which Werner List
values very much. Indeed, the President brings along four cabinet
members for this world premiere, that could very well change the
face of the brewing industry.
The system engineered and built under the supervision of George Chan
is the result of an extensive research and design over the Internet.
A group of scientists supported by the UNU asked questions t o
fellow scholars on how to make best use of the spent grain, the
alkaline waste water, and the CO2 gases that make up 98% of the
waste from the brewery. The solution does not intervene in the core
processing of the industry, but carefully tailors a system which
reuses all waste into valuable products.
While the spent grain was traditionally given away to farmers, it is
well known that cattle cannot digest the fibers. This results in a
lot of gas. We know that cattle are the second largest source o f
methane gas, one of the major causes of the global warming. This
lignin-cellulosic component, which is 70 to 80% of the spent grain,
can only be broken down by the enzymes of mushrooms. So, George Chan
brought Prof. Dr. S.T. Chang from the Chinese University of Hong
Kong, to Namibia. This world expert on mushrooms trained the
Namibians in the cultivation of this high priced product which is tr
aditionally imported. Prof. Chang is confident that "Namibia will
soon be exporting mushrooms. Four tons of spent grain is sufficient
to grow one ton of mushrooms". And with four tons of waste a day, the
brewery is converted into a major mushroom producer.
The spent grain is also full of protein, up to 26%. If too much
protein ends up in the beer, then it would make the drinker gain too
much weight. Wasting protein is unacceptable, definitely in Africa .
So, George Chan in cooperation with the Namibian University's
Faculty of Agriculture and Natural Resources, is initiating the
cultivation of earthworms and these are used as chicken feed. For a
cou ntry that imports all chicken feed, and 80% of its chickens, this
is a blessing. Prof. Keto Mshigeni, the pro vice chancellor of the
University of Namibia and the well respected botanist, knew that p
roviding food for the Namibians is one of the biggest challenges for
the new University, which was only established in 1992, after
Namibia gained independence from South Africa. He is the culprit who
brought the zero emissions concept to Africa.
Approximately 80% of the water needed in the brewing of beer does
not end up in the bottle or the can. When George Chan learned that
Namibia Breweries had secured a license to extract water from an a
quifer, and would only use it 20% commercially, he took upon himself
to design a system that does not leave one drop lost. The waste
water is alkaline and could be used for the cultivation of Spiruli na
algae. Just imagine, this alga generates up to 70% protein, exactly
what is needed locally to fight child malnutrition. Normally, the
law prescribes that the alkaline water needs to be treated che
mically to make it pH neutral. This is costly. Since alkaline water
is an excellent breeding ground, the algae will generate additional
revenues and not extra costs. The brewery is not wasting protei n
anymore, it becomes a protein factory. The residual water is then
channeled to fish ponds where the traditional multicropping fish
farming is introduced, as applied in China and Vietnam. With a pro
ductivity of 15 tons per hectare per year, the brewery also becomes
a fish factory.
The two most needed ingredients for a fish farm are water and feed.
Namibia traditionally had neither. Now, it has abundant water for
fish farming and all the feed is provided from the waste streams
generated by the earthworm/chicken/mushroom cycle. There is more,
biowaste is digested and produces gas. Instead of letting the gas
flow through the intestines of cattle, it is captured and used as a
fuel, releasing some of the pressure on wood, which is for 80% of
the population in Tsumeb, the main source of energy. At the opening
ceremony, coffee and tea will be served from a stove powered by gas
generated from the waste of the brewery.
Gunter Pauli, the initiator of the world Zero Emissions program
believes that is this first commercial operation, after a test unit
was built and operated in Fiji. This could well prove all economist s
and politicians wrong. "They believe that in order to increase the
productivity of a company, you have to reduce jobs. We demonstrated,
first in the Pacific, and now in Africa, that when you focus on the
productivity of the raw materials, you can generate more income,
higher returns AND more jobs, while, at the same time, you eliminate
pollution. This is the industrial model of the future." An d those
who visited either facility, agree.
The opening of the brewery in Tsumeb, Namibia is not just a local
affair. Representatives from Africa (close to 10 countries), Asia,
Australia, Europe and Latin America will participate in a special
training course. How can this Zero Emissions industrial design
concept be put to use in their own countries? Gunter Pauli and his
team at the UNU has expanded their research on the application of t
he zero emissions concept to vegetable oils (palm, coconut and
olive), construction materials (cement, bamboo), paper, fruits
(pineapples), sugar, seaweed, sisal. It is hoped that this training
cours e will unleash entrepreneurship and creativity, resulting in
more jobs and a better use of natural resources. The United Nations
Development Program (UNDP) has pledged full support. President Sam
Nuj oma, freedom fighter who spent years in exile, has contributed
one and a half million Namibian dollars initially and one million
annually, towards the further implementation of ZERI projects in his
c ountry. He is putting his money where his mouth is. For the
international media interested in participating in the opening of
this facility, transportation will be provided from Windhoek,
Namibia. T he cars will depart on Thursday January 30 at 2 pm in
afternoon from Hotel Safari in Windhoek. Inquiries about the agenda
and participation in the opening ceremony can be made with Prof. K.
Mshigeni: by phone at number +264-206 3035 at the University of
Namibia by fax at number +264-206 3936 at the University of Namibia
by email at email@example.com by GSM mobile phone in Namibia at
+46-70-645 0 267
For questions to persons who have visited and studied the first
facility in Fiji, please call Lester Brown or Hal Kane at the
Worldwatch Institute in Washington DC at phone 202-452 1999, or fax
202-2 96 7365 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Hal Kane assessed the
research project and its results in Suva, Fiji last November.
For questions to scientists who have participated in the research
which resulted in this first commercial operation in the world
please contact Prof. Dr. Carl-Goran Heden, member of the Swedish
Royal Academy of Sciences, at phone +46-8-33 44 73 or fax 46-8-31 46
20 or email Carl-Goran.Heden@soconline.com
For questions to UNDP about their support to the Zero Emissions
vision and the response from donor countries, please contact Anders
Wijkman, director for the bureau of policy coordination and deputy
administrator at phone 212-906 5020 or fax 212-906 5857 or email
For questions to Namibian Breweries and their reasons for
undertaking this initiative, please contact Mrs. Brigitte Sass or
Mr. G. Roux, head of public affairs at phone 264-61-262 915 ext.
2122 or fa x 264-61-262 945.
For questions to the United Nations University on the methodology of
this research initiative, please contact Prof. Dr. Tarcisio
Dellasenta, the director of the UNU Institute for Advanced Studies
at phone 81-3-5467 1388 or fax 81-3-5467 1247 or email
For questions on the emerging private public partnerships to quickly
implement frontier initiatives like ZERI, please contact the Hon.
J.Hugh Faulkner, executive chairman of Sustainable Project Manag
ement at phone 41-26-9258000 or fax 41-26-925 9500.
NC Division of Pollution Prevention & Environmental Assistance
P.O. Box 29569
Raleigh, NC 27626-9569
Tel: (919) 715-6527
Fax: (919) 715-6794
Web site: http://owr.ehnr.state.nc.us/