Lighthouse Waste Reduction by Chris Lukie – Brewer

Lighthouse Waste Reduction by Chris Lukie – Brewer

Wasted at Lighthouse….

As many of you know, Lighthouse began 17 years ago with a dream to make wonderful beers in a sustainable manner with utmost respect for the environment.  Since opening we have been recognized for our efforts with three Ecostar awards for sustainable operations in Victoria. Once again, and in an employee driven effort, Lighthouse has struck off in a direction that every brewery has to address, waste reduction.

It may surprise you to learn that breweries do not just make beer.  The brewing industry has many streams of output which require a solution to keep producing our beloved beer in an ethical and environmental way. For example; breweries create yeast with each and every fermentation, cleaning waste in the form of cleansers, heat, and debris, not to mention filter sheets used to get certain beers clear as stained glass, and grain that was crushed for mashing so that enzymes can free up sugars all need a home.  How about cardboard? Holy smokes, cardboard!  Plastic barrels, buckets, jugs and metal barrels that brought in cleaning agents or ingredients would only stack up to the ceiling if we did not divert them elsewhere.  This is not an exhaustive list, but I hope the point you are getting is that breweries do not just make beer.

At Lighthouse we take each of these streams seriously.  It is not cheap to conduct business in a sustainable way, but living on an island with more than 700,000 other people (340,000 here in the beautiful city of Victoria alone) makes the decision and costs easier to swallow.  It is our civic duty to care and always do our best. We are working on creating solutions that are worthy of living on an island, and improving other waste handling methods that may no longer be top of the technological heap.  I will admit that we are not perfect, and there are a couple sore spots, but we are looking at better ways to run our business every day.

We started this latest program in 2015, and as a result Lighthouse Brewing Company has diverted 5000kg of solid waste and 120,000 litres of liquids from the landfill to recycling, repurposing, and reusing endpoints.  This includes grain, yeast, trub, straps, cardboard, filter pads, coffee grounds, lunch scraps, hops, waste beer, grain bags, aluminum, soft plastic, glass bottles, barrels, and styrofoam to name most.  So where does it all go you ask?  I will tell you….


  • First of all, the most pleasing feeling was seeing that our outside trash bin went from being picked up at least once per week – overflowing I might add with stuff waiting in the loading bay to be put right into it – to only needing a pick-up once every three weeks. On top of this I can’t even remember the last time I emptied the warehouse general use bin which used to be nearly a daily event.
  • Spent grain is what is left after we extract sugars. We have approximately 700-2000kg of grain per day available.  The grain is picked up by local farmers who run Hidden Valley Processors up in Cowichan.  Cattle are then raised on a Lighthouse grain supplemented diet before being sold to local butchers, and served back to us as Island Grown beef.
  • Trub, waste beer, and yeast are lumped together as they are disposed of in the same manner. Trub is collected after each and every brew to the tune of about 500 L per day.  Waste beer and yeast are collected after each fermentation and beer transfer from every brew and add up to approximately 800 kg of liquid.  Our solution is using an island based company in Nanaimo that separates solid from liquid waste.  Liquids are reused, and the solids are broken down to compost material.  This compost is then put back into use for growing new plants in greenhouses, gardens, and fields.
  • Cardboard is picked up by a local recycler, baled, and then sold to manufacturers that repurpose it into all those products made from recycled fibres like napkins, plates, and coffee cups. I do not know the mass we go thru but we do have a large bin outside that is filled once every week.
  • Hops are an essential part of our beers including Shipwreck, Bowline, and Tasman. The amount of spent whole hops varies, but on a weekly basis we produce about 800 kg of hops that, in the past, were sent to landfill.  We all know that is taboo thanks to beautiful people like Dr. David Suzuki, so our solution is to get them picked up by reFUSE, a local recycling company.  They deliver our organics, including our hops, coffee grounds, lunch scraps and peelings, to a licensed organic matter recycling plant in Cobble Hill where it goes thru an intensive one month long boot camp before being returned as Grade A compost and sold under the name reSOIL.  This is a very cool process and we are very pleased to be part of it.
  • Empty grain bags for our plant are simply re-used to help customers take their reSOIL home (as mentioned above). ReSOIL is used in home gardens, local gardens, and as fundraisers for schools and clubs.  Grain bags are also picked up by locals for their own purposes, as Halloween bags, and for malt sack races at picnics.  Great idea, right?
  • Barrels are given two potential lives. The first is they are taken to central Vancouver Island to be shredded and repurposed into useful recycled products.  The second is our Farmers take them to be used on the farm as rain barrels or other suitable purpose.
  • Soft plastics including six pack rings and pallet wrap are bagged ironically into a plastic bag and then taken to a local recycler.
  • Filter pads are cellulose fibred squares that we use to clarify our beer. We have approximately 100 kg of these per week.  Since they are 100% plant fibre they are also turned into compost.

This altogether adds up into Lighthouse spending, I mean investing, greatly in disposal fees, but it allows us to hold our heads high knowing we are on a sustainable path and being good citizens and neighbours on Vancouver Island.

We will continue to improve our processes and look for stronger solutions as it is our social responsibility. Living on beautiful Vancouver Island is a privilege that we don’t take for granted.  We intend to keep this place beautiful.


Chris Lukie

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