Stainless Steel VS. Plastic Kegs

Who is the greenest of them all?

Don’t let the colour fool you, stainless steel kegs are as green as it gets. It turns out that one of the oldest methods of transporting beer is also one of the most environmentally friendly ways as well. Even with the entrance of plastic one-way kegs into the market, stainless steel kegs combined with the unique keg pooling advantages of Kegshare make it the number one choice for environmentally-minded breweries, cideries and distilleries. 

 

Lifetime energy consumption of a keg and the waste that it creates once it has served its purpose are two major ways of measuring the environmental impact of a keg. It is true that the construction of a plastic PET keg has less environmental impact than the construction of stainless steel kegs, but that is where the advantages end.

 

The fact that PET kegs are designed as a single-use throwaway plastic means that its lifetime benefit to the environment is ended the second the keg is emptied. On the other hand, a stainless steel keg has a lifetime of 30 years and in that time can be reused, on average, 120 times (Roeder,4). The environmental benefit of lesser energy-intensive construction for plastic one use kegs is surpassed after just 15 to 20 uses! (Treeze,2013) That means in the lifetime use of a stainless steel keg you can save the environment from the construction, impact, and damage of five additional plastic one-use kegs. 

Reverse logistics is a point of contention between stainless steel kegs and plastic one use kegs. Plastic one-use kegs have the advantage of using no energy during the reverse logistics cycle due to their purpose of using and disposing of them afterwards. However, plastic one-way kegs do not hold this advantage with a Stainless Steel Kegshare keg. With Kegshare the environmental impact of the reverse logistics of a steel keg is almost completely removed from the equation. This is because Kegshare has a nationwide fleet of kegs with warehouses across the country that our local customers get kegs from. For example, when a brewery in Vancouver uses a Kegshare keg to send their beer to Winnipeg, once that keg is tapped and emptied, it is brought back to Kegshare’s local distribution warehouse where it can then be used by a brewery in Winnipeg, rather than being shipped back to Vancouver. There is no major energy expense associated with the reverse logistics of a Kegshare keg and that is why we designed our system the way we did. 

Once each of these kegs has met the end of its useful life it is time to look at the waste it creates. Plastic one-use kegs are meant to be recycled but that is more often than not the case. According to the study Plastic Waste in the Environment by the European Commission in 2011, plastic waste is only recycled about 58% of the time and of that only 29% of the recycled material is reused. The rest of it either ends up in landfills and takes centuries to decompose or are burnt in incinerators which can emit toxic chemicals (Environment, 2011, S. 66-74). 

 

On the other hand, stainless steel kegs are made out of 100% recyclable material. When a stainless steel keg is at the end of its useful life, it is simply melted down and reused as a raw material once again. 

 

Stainless steel kegs when paired with Kegshare’s nationwide reverse logistics system is an incredibly environmentally friendly solution for transporting your beer anywhere in Canada. Cutting out unnecessary environmental waste has been a key goal of Kegshare from day one. By reducing the number of empty kegs shipped across the country and eliminating one-use plastic kegs Kegshare and breweries are taking a great step in the right direction. 

 

References: 

Environment, B. I. (2011). Plastic Waste in the Environment. European Commission. Retrieved from: ec.europa.eu:https://ec.europa.eu/environment/waste/studies/pdf/plastics.pdf

 

Roeder, Jorg. (2014) Sustainable Packaging for Beer. Retrieved from: https://www.blefakegs.us/fileadmin/PDF/PI_AdvantageStainlessSteel_20140210.pdf

 

Treeze. (2013). Beverage Kegs. Franke Beverage Systems. Retrieved from ECO2:   https://treeze.ch/projects/case-studies/consumption-and-production/beverage-kegs