With a title like “Why Drinking Beer is Good for the Planet,” my interest was certainly piqued. The online edition of New Scientist doesn’t have the full article online — that requires a subscription — but there is enough information there to make sense of the story, at least.
What they’re calling “beer bran,” by which I presume they mean the spent grain, has been found to be effective in cleaning water that has been polluted.
From the New Scientist article preview:
Researchers at Kobe Pharmaceutical University in Japan have demonstrated that the [beer] bran adsorbs hazardous organic compounds including benzene and trichloroethylene (TCE) from chemical and industrial wastewater. The US National Academy of Sciences reported last week that there is growing evidence that TCE, used in adhesives and paint, can cause cancer. The Environmental Protection Agency is carrying out a new risk assessment of the chemical.
Companies commonly use filters made from activated carbon to remove pollutants from water. The dry, porous material has a large surface area, allowing it to trap large quantities of impurities. However, it is expensive and energy-consuming to produce, as it is made by heating coal to around 900 °C.
Many breweries currently dispose of their spent grain by giving it to local farmers to use as a cattle feed. But being able to reverse the effects of pollution would be yet another excellent use for this by-product of the brewing process.