Keg Recycling and Management Trends

New Approaches Include Recycling and Combining Reuse with Recycling

From Malted Barley To A Of Barrel Adnams
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Kegs or barrels for wine and beer have seen duty for centuries. In the case of beer, in particular, stainless steel kegs have long been the container of choice for bulk sales. They offer considerable efficiencies over the use of bottles or cans for single servings in facilities such as bars and restaurants. The landscape continues to evolve, however, driven by issues such as metal theft and keg loss.

Other factors include the growth of 3rd party rental and retrieval programs to help better manage assets such as kegs, an ever-increasing range of specialty products which dictates the wider use of smaller sized kegs, and the emergence of wine as a candidate for 1/6 keg distribution.

Keg Theft Continues to Hit Brewers on the Bottom Line

With the replacement of stolen or lost kegs pegged at over $50 million annually in the U.S., related industries continue to explore options such as 3rd party management of kegs or single use recyclable kegs, both touched on below. In January 2014, the Irish Brewers' Association (IBA) stated that some 400,000 kegs had vanished from the country in the previous six years at a value of €40 million or US$54 million. 

On average, the stainless steel kegs cost about €100 or US$135 to replace, stated the IBA, noting that kegs are also a valuable target for scrap metal thieves.

"For the brewing sector, keg theft continues to be a serious problem and is hindering our ability to meet customer requirements," Thomas Burke, the senior executive with the IBA, commented at the time.

Rehrig Pacific Combines Recyclable Inner Bottle with Reusable Keg Rental Program

Responses to the challenges of preventing keg loss and theft, as well as improving their reverse logistics to decrease dwell time before return, have resulted in various 3rd party management offerings such as the Kegspediter service (http://www.slg.com/services/kegspediter/) as well as the emergence of recyclable single trip kegs.

One recent approach from Rehrig Pacific Company combines both approaches. Its PUBKEG 1/6 keg rental program combines a pristine new inner bottle, which is recycled after emptying, with a reusable package that is retrieved by Rehrig Pacific for reissue. (Rehrig Pacific is an innovative provider that has come up with such interesting programs as upcycling wood waste into an engineered board product.)

Wine Looks to the Keg for Downstream Distribution

While barrels have been an essential component of wine production for hundreds of years, typically wine has been bottled for the final leg of distribution to the wine enthusiast. As companies continue to look for more environmentally sound solutions as well as cost-reduction opportunities, the keg offers an attractive value proposition. For example, Free Flow Wines (www.freeflowwines.com) of Napa, California says that the use of one of their 5-gallon reusable kegs will eliminate the generation of 2,340 pounds of trash over the keg's lifetime. The business model of Free Flow is essentially one of a 3rd party packaging provider, providing keg fill services for over 150 different wineries. 

When it comes to the keg, consumer preference, scrap theft, logistics challenges and environmental considerations continue to shape the market.

If there is one certainty, it is the public's continued desire for quality products at an affordable price, and the keg can deliver on both fronts.