Killjoy environmentalists have a new target in their sights besides flying, cars and eating meat: alcohol.
Simple pleasures like a pint after work or raising a glass at a wedding are causing serious damage to the planet, a new report claims.
It calls on ministers to impose a ‘green tax’ on booze in an effort to cut sales and reduce environmental impact.
Wine bottles and beer cans should also indicate the damage associated with producing, packaging and transporting them, it adds.
This can be done using traffic light labels, similar to those used to mark levels of fat, salt and sugar in food, according to the Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS).
Simple pleasures like a pint after work or raising a glass at a wedding are wreaking havoc on the planet, claims a new report from the London-based Institute of Alcohol Studies.
HOW CAN ALCOHOL HARM THE ENVIRONMENT?
Making, packaging, transporting and storing alcohol can all harm the planet, a report suggests.
Farming crops for alcohol, such as barley, hops and grapes, means that the land is not used for essential food, wildlife and plants.
According to the Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS), some farms use a lot of pesticides, which kill insects and damage natural land for wildlife.
And the shift to drinking at home in the post-pandemic world has fueled the need to transport alcohol to more locations.
It has also seen an increase in the use of individual cans and bottles, rather than reusable barrels and kegs.
In addition, it is estimated that around half of UK alcohol containers are thrown into general waste bins rather than being recycled.
Refrigeration is also having an impact, with a rise in trendy home wine fridges that guzzle electricity, the IAS says.
The think tank is calling for the controversial measures in its new ‘People, Planet or Profit’ report, which warns that more needs to be done to highlight the ‘significant negative impact’ of alcohol production on the environment.
The IAS has previously focused largely on the health and social costs of alcohol, including addiction, liver disease and crime.
But the latest publication states: ‘Growing raw materials for alcohol displaces essential food production; exorbitant amounts of clean water are required during production; and greenhouse gas emissions within a product’s life cycle contribute to global warming.
“This environmental damage must be viewed in the context of the fact that alcohol is a non-essential product, unlike food and water.”
The authors say that individuals are adopting more sustainable diets, such as reducing their meat and dairy intake, and that government intervention could have a similar effect on alcohol.
They add: ‘A better understanding of how alcohol contributes to environmental damage could change consumption behavior, bringing benefits to both public health and the environment.’
The decline of pubs and the shift to home drinking has magnified alcohol’s environmental impact, the report warns.
This is fueled by the need to transport alcohol to more locations and the use of individual cans and bottles rather than reusable barrels and kegs.
It is estimated that around half of UK alcohol containers are thrown into general waste bins rather than being recycled.
Refrigeration is also making an impact, with an increase in trendy home wine fridges that guzzle electricity.
It adds: ‘Beverages served chilled, such as lagers, white wine, sparkling wine, spirits and premixed cocktails, have an additional element of environmental damage from the energy requirement for refrigeration.’
The report says that farming crops for alcohol, such as barley, hops and grapes, “displaces land use for essential food, wildlife and natural flora.”
Some use a lot of pesticides, which results in the soil between and under the hops remaining barren and dusty and damaging the natural habitats for wildlife.
According to the report, ‘immediate measures’, such as raising excise rates or introducing a ‘direct harm levy’ for producers, would lead to ‘more accurate real costs of alcohol’.
Jennifer Keen, chief of policy at the IAS, said: “As a society, we know we need to reduce our consumption of products in general, due to the strain on natural resources and biodiversity.
“However, alcohol has a double damage, as it not only negatively impacts the environment, but also kills millions of people around the world every year.
“So reducing alcohol consumption through well-known evidence-based population measures — such as reducing the affordability of alcohol by increasing excise taxes — will improve both people’s health and the planet.”
Christopher Snowdon, head of lifestyle economics at the Instate of Economic Affairs, said: “The shape-shifting temperance movement is always looking for new ways to promote its anti-alcohol agenda.
The so-called Institute of Alcohol Studies is the successor to the UK Temperance Alliance and the charity’s explicit goal is ‘an alcohol-free society’.
“Now it pretends to be an environmental organization, presumably to join the COP-27 conference.
‘The goal is always the same: higher taxes on drinkers and stigmatization of alcohol.’
All four alcohol trafficking agencies approached declined to comment.