Each year the alcohol industry in Mexico (tequila, Mezcal, Rum, Anhidrous, Pharmaceutical, Medicinal, Cosmetic, etc.) generates more than 170 million gallons of alcohol. This number shows the importance of such industry and the relevance it may have on our country’s economy.
Nonetheless, it is important to mention that for every gallon of alcohol produced, up to 3.9 gallons of a highly polluting liquid is generated. This liquid is known as Vinasse and due to its physicochemical properties, it is very difficult and costly to treat and dispose of.
For these reasons, the alcohol industry in its majority has chosen to set the problem aside and dispose of it in an unlawful manner, dumping it into rivers, sewage and land, causing grave social and environmental problems.
But... what is the vinasse?
Vinasses are the liquid by-products generated after the distillation of the ethanol from the fermented wines (or musts) that are prepared from the sugars of different types of plants or grains.
Generally, the vinasse contains very high content of dissolved solids, a ridiculous amount of organic matter, plenty of ashes and very acidic pH's. Also, on most cases they are discharged at very high temperatures.
Due to all those unwanted characteristics, the vinasses are considered as a complex, recalcitrant and highly polluting effluent that can cause serious health issues, diminish aquatic life, affect productivity of land, contaminate aquifer foundlands, and emmitt methane into our atmosphere if not disposed of properly.