Shochu Liquor Residue Recycled into Potent Ethanol Fuel

Shochu selection backs Ethanol and dried fiber produced through "dregs" processingShochu selection backs Ethanol and dried fiber produced through "dregs" processing
Shochu , said by some to be Japan's take on vodka, is a traditional alcoholic beverage made from ingredients such as rice, barley and sweet potatoes. As shochu is enjoying somewhat of a boom in popularity lately, manufacturers have had to find practical ways to dispose of the copious amounts of waste products created during the production process. And I do mean "copious"... shochu production creates twice as much waste by volume as actual shochu!


Loading up tanker truck with shochu dregsLoading up tanker truck with shochu dregs
In the olden days - OK, before April of 2007 - standard practice was to dump the waste into the ocean. It wasn't as bad as it sounds; what with the so-called "dregs" consisting of approximately 90 percent water and the rest being sweet potato fiber. Nevertheless, government regulations that came into effect last April have forced shochu makers to seek alternatives.


"Chu-hai", or shochu with carbonated water & fruit juices"Chu-hai", or shochu with carbonated water & fruit juices

Miyazaki Prefecture is the site of a cooperative recycling plant that accepts shochu dregs delivered by tanker truck and processes them into high-grade ethanol fuel, dried animal feed and water. According to The Japan Times , most of the ethanol is used on-site to power the recycling plant, but the cooperative's managers are looking ahead to the day when ethanol can be produced in significant quantities for use as biofuel. That, of course, depends on Japan's drinkers doing their part... kampai!

Steve Levenstein
Japanese Innovations Writer