As growing concerns for environmental impact increase over topics like climate change and the ubiquity of disposable items, this has now become a defined buzz word in 2018. So much so, that the Collins Dictionary has identified “Single Use” as their 2018 Word of the Year.

According to Collins, “Single Use” has shown a four-fold increase in usage since 2013, thanks to larger media and celebrities producing documentaries like “BBC’s Blue Planet II” and “Before the Flood” about “Single Use” products.

The environmental impact of “Single Use” has led to the State of California legally banning plastic straws in restaurants unless customers specifically request it. Although it doesn’t cover fast food establishments, arguably the biggest consumer of plastic straws, it is a move in the right direction.

How is this relevant to BLEFA and the beverage industry? One-way or single-use kegs are used for breweries, wineries, ciders, etc. looking to ship liquids farther distances. They either choose to use plastic kegs because they don’t want them to come back, the financial burden of the reverse logistics aren’t worth it or the potential that the kegs simply are lost.

It is a risk vs. reward every time a keg departs without knowing if it will come back creates a dilemma regarding quality vs. price. Most would want to use stainless steel for their characteristics of keeping their quality beverage intact from production to consumption, plus the ability to reuse the package time and time again. This is their choice to make.

BLEFA has completed an independent study on the life cycle assessment of beverage kegs, a comparison of chromium steel vs. plastic. The study aims for modeling the environmental impacts of one chromium steel beverage keg 1/6 bbl compared to two different single-use plastic containers. The study concludes that the higher the number of turns, the lower it impacts the environment. With a reuse rate of 20 times or more, the steel keg causes lower climate change (GWP), energy use (CED) and water use impacts compared to those of the plastic containers.

To quote a leader in the wine on-tap segment, Free Flow Wines stand behind their use of stainless steel kegs for all of their customers. “Being green is core to our company. The key to our sustainability numbers really is our stainless steel kegs. With a paltry 31.6% recycling rate for plastic bottles, most plastic kegs end up in a landfill. Our steel kegs are the most sustainable, environmentally friendly way of serving wine on tap.”

Revisiting the environmental impact vs. price argument, yes, you can look at it as how many more single-use kegs you could purchase compared to its stainless steel counterpart. However, what’s the environmental impact of those additional single-use kegs? Being able to reuse a keg for 20-30 years makes sense, regardless of the intentions.

That being said you can either be environmentally responsible or not, the choice is yours!

Author: Justin Willenbrink