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Sustainability & Waste Reduction

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Fellow Distiller of Fine Spirits,


  • Are you interested in sustainable business practices? 

  • Would you recycle all of your waste byproducts onsite or nearby if it was possible? 

  • Do you want to reduce or eliminate your sewer and solid waste disposal costs?


Spent distillery wash, organic solids, spent grains and fruit, CO2, waste heat, cardboard, paper, etc. can be recycled and reused to produce useful products like: water, vegetable produce, soil amendments, and more.


I have been working on a system to recycle all of the major byproducts of my distillery.  I am now ready to build the prototype system.  I want to get more distilleries that are interested in sustainable industry to get involved.  There are about 1,300 distilleries in the US right now.  We have about 80 here in Oregon.


We have an opportunity to set the standard on sustainability.  Because of the type of byproducts we produce, it is relatively simple to recycle virtually all of it.  Traditional waste disposal is getting more complicated and expensive all the time. Sewage rates are going up, solid waste disposal rates are increasing, and there is concern over CO2 emissions.  We can mitigate all of these onsite reducing our costs, producing other products, increasing our community presence and reputation by doing something good for the environment.


Those of you that get involved as a minor partner and help either physically or financially, will have the use of the research, system design and operation for your own use at your distillery. The major partners will retain the commercial rights to the system. The prototype system will be operated in partnership with local universities and other sustainability industry professionals.  We are seeking grants through other federal, state, and private organizations such as the SBIR program.  Should these come through, this offer will be discontinued and those presently onboard will retain the original rights as described.


Let me know if you are interested and would like to learn more.

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  • 1 month later...

Hi Chad,

I am putting together a small scale spent wash recycling system right now. Once that is complete and running, then I can apply for some grants to complete the full scale prototype. Then we will make it available commercially. Then that system will recycle all of our waste streams onsite. Solid, liquid, CO2, the works.

Let me know if you have any questions or would like to get involved,

Rick Stillwagon

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  • 1 year later...

Hi Rick;

I just came across this thread and am wondering if you have made any headway in your sustainability project. Our Distillery is located in a rural area (farms and wineries) We do not have any public sewer system and wastewater disposal has been a learned experience. We currently send some spent grains to a farmer which he mixes with other feed and gives it to his farm animals. The majority we take to the local landfill where it is mixed with wood chips and other process and sold as compost material. 

I am looking into using some of the heads and tails as a fuel source in our natural gas boiler (with some modifications). The wastewater is the complex topic as most treatment systems I have so far are cost prohibitive. Have you learned about any affordable wastewater treatments?. I am located in British Columbia, Canada and am also looking into any govt. grants programs as well. Any insight would be appreciated.


Thanks; Doug Lennie

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Hi Doug,

I am working with a non-profit to acquire a grant to build the full scale system that will process our spent wash, CO2, solid organic waste, and waste heat.  In the mean time, we are building a 1/16 scale system for proof of concept and to work out some of the details until we acquire funding for the whole system.  We have been developing the spent wash treatment for the last 5 years, and believe we have the system worked out, we simply have to prove it (we currently use part of the system to eliminate our spent wash.)  It has been an adventure, but it will be great to close the loop and reclaim the water, and enjoy the benefits of what the entire system will produce: recycled water, CO2 consumption in the greenhouse, vanilla and ginger and other plant/vegetable production, fish, and soil amendments.  It is pretty involved incorporating: anaerobic and aerobic bacterial fermentation, hydroponics, aquaponics, composting, vermiculture, biochar production and use, carbon filtration, sand filtration, ozone treatment, etc.  If you want to visit more email me at stillwagondistillery@yahoo.com 

You might try aligning with a non-profit organization that has similar goals to acquire grants.  I don't know how it is where you are, but here, it is much easier for a non-profit to get grant funding than a for profit.  It requires a coalition of a non-profit, university, local government bodies, other organizations that are working together and must gain something from the efforts receiving the funding.  I have a grant writer that seeks out the grants and puts together the proposals.  I have to pull in all the other partners in the coalition, seek letters of support, etc.

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