The effects of alcohol on the environment: Deforestation, water and plastic waste

In this day and age, we are all aware of the vast amount of waste and pollution that industries, such as fast fashion and transportation create, but many of us have yet to find out the harmful consequences of alcohol production.

• What is the Process of Making Alcohol ?

In chemistry, there are many different forms of alcohol, but the one we consume is called ethanol. Ethanol is produced through the fermentation of numerous fruits, grains, and vegetables. The carbohydrates in these items react with yeast or bacteria during fermentation, breaking down the sugars and creating ethanol and carbon dioxide as byproducts. The longer the substance is left for fermentation, the greater the amount of alcohol in the ethanol generated. For reference, the production of a bottle of wine (750 ml) can create as much as 230 oz of carbon dioxide, while 350 milliliters of beer generates 371 oz of CO2.

• The Environmental Impacts of Producing Alcohol

Due to the high consumption of alcohol in the modern world, food crops, including grapes, hops, and barley, must be mass-produced. These crops require a lot of water and pesticides to be grown on a large scale. Agriculture, in fact, is the largest consumer of water, accounting for 69% of all freshwater withdrawals worldwide.

In addition, crop reproduction stimulates deforestation in order to create place for more agricultural area. Trees are crucial for absorbing carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases, therefore cutting them down is harmful for the ecosystem. It also devastates the habitats of a variety of species. Every year, 18 million acres of forest are lost on average, which is alarming given that forest land is home to 80% of the world’s species.

The ecosystem is harmed by more than simply the manufacturing of alcohol. Typically, alcoholic beverages are packaged in glass bottles or aluminum cans, both of which are difficult to recycle. In fact, in the United States, 50 billion cans are tossed each year, while in the United Kingdom, half of all alcohol containers are not recycled and dumped.

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