Cheers to that: Striving to deliver 100 percent circular PET kegs 

Cheers to that: Striving to deliver 100 percent circular PET kegs 

08 Nov 2018 --- Lightweight Containers BV is the founder of the innovative KeyKeg and UniKeg system. The kegs are innovative in that they are made from lightweight plastic, as opposed to steel or wood, thereby reducing cO2 emissions and costs during travel. They are also almost entirely circular: old kegs become new kegs. PackagingInsights speaks exclusively to Annemieke Hartman, Chief Commercial Officer at Lightweight Containers, on the company’s circular ambitions.

KeyKegs and UniKegs are one-way packaging systems for beer, but also kombucha and cold or nitro coffee. The kegs are a strictly one-use product, but they can increasingly be recycled into new kegs once they have been used. As a result of its partnership with OneCircle, used KeyKegs and UniKegs are collected to be processed, separated and the materials re-used in high-end applications, increasing the total volume of recycled sets of KeyKegs and UniKegs.

Click to Enlarge
The KeyKeg will eventually be made from over 50 percent recycled
PET and the company's goal is to recycle every KeyKeg
to produce new KeyKegs.

Kegs are traditionally made from steel and wood, but according to Hartman, many in the industry, as well as newcomers, are not investing in steel fleets of kegs. Steel and wood kegs need to be returned to breweries after use, but this comes with a hefty environmental and economical tag. Not only are the CO2 emissions high, but the costs of the journey back is often equal to the costs of a KeyKeg or UniKeg much as the keg itself.

“KeyKegs and UniKegs are made from 30 percent recycled product. We intend that the composition of the KeyKeg will be 81 percent made from recycled kegs, with 19 percent of the product being recycled into other high-end products,” Hartman tells PackagingInsights

The ultimate aim for the company is to produce a keg that is not only 81 percent circular, but 100 percent recyclable. However, this also relies on developments in other parts of the plastics and recycling industry before it can become a reality.

Playing an active role in end of life processes
The waste industry is often unable to recycle plastic kegs which are labeled as recyclable. This has led to customers or consumers believing their kegs will be recycled in the waste streams when they may, in fact, be sent to landfills or incineration.

Click to Enlarge
Annemieke Hartman, Chief Commercial
 Officer at Lightweight Containers.

“Other companies place the responsibility on the waste recycling stream. We need to be more proactive in questioning the waste providers process, to ensure it is disposed of in an accountable way. Otherwise, there’s also enough evidence now to know that it is disingenuous,” Hartman says.

Lightweight Containers plays an active role in the end of life process through its collaboration with OneCircle. This can be through organized pickups of the kegs, such as for festivals, or processing centers set up in market areas. The company currently has one in the Netherlands which is creating a blueprint for sorting the kegs, to be rolled out to other processing lines across geographic regions including, Europe, the US and Asia.

Sustainability is a hot topic and with its increasing prevalence, customer’s knowledge around it is increasing which further shapes their demands.

“The market demand is beginning to focus on what can be evidenced from your green credentials and customers are making decisions based on this actual evidence, rather than what is just marketed,” says Hartman.

This will become increasingly important amid sustainability pressures that are continuing to build. One such example is the UK’s proposed tax on plastics that contain less than 30 percent recycled content. 

In Hartman’s words, “Our founder started the company with the slogan in mind, ‘Make the world a better place,’ so when the UK taxes come into force in 2022, we are already positioned today to do just that.”

By Laxmi Haigh

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