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KeyKegs waiting to be recycled

Responsibly recycling KeyKegs

Adam Rogers
Jan 24, 2019 · 3 min read

Given our work with our KegHop service, we put a lot of kegs into a lot of offices. When they are done, we collect them and take them away again, usually hooking up a brand new, fresh keg in the process. It’s all part of the service.

For KegHop, we’ve chosen to use KegKegs as far as possible. KeyKegs are great for two key reasons, both derived from the fact that they are effectively “bag in a box”. To understand why that’s important, you need to understand how a KeyKeg actually works (a bit, anyway).

In the most basic terms, inside a KeyKeg, there is a bag. Inside the bag, there is beer. To get the beer out of the bag, you simply force gas into the space between the bag and the outer container and voila, beer is forced up and out, ideally through a tube connected to some kind of a tap. This means the gas pressurising the keg never comes into contact with the beer, and that’s the magic trick.

Because the gas never touches the beer, we can pressurise our kegs with air compressors. Unlike a traditional pub cellar setup, which would normally use CO2 to pressurise steel kegs, using air compressors eliminates the need for CO2 canisters which have a nasty habit of running out when you least expect it, and also cause health and safety bods to have heart palpitations when brought onto a busy office floor.

Further, and again because the gas does not actually touch the beer, the servable lifespan of the keg is vastly increased. While beer is (nearly) always best drunk fresh, in an office environment the turnover of product is much slower than in a pub. One would be worried if that were not the case. CO2 is traditionally used to pressurise steel kegs because the oxygen content of air would cause the beer to oxidise very quickly, and oxidised beer is very, very not nice. However, the downside of CO2 is that, after a few days, instead of causing the beer to oxidise, it causes the beer to over-carbonate, which leads to the tap pouring out foam instead of beer. Not ideal if you are planning on keeping your keg hanging around a while.

So, KeyKegs are great. But (and there’s always a but) KeyKegs have a dirty truth to them. They are “one-way” kegs, meaning they are made out of plastic and can’t be re-used (easily) by the brewery again. And single-use plastic is bad. KeyKeg have always maintained that the kegs themselves are recyclable, and I’m sure they are. But, because of the integrated bag, practically they are difficult to recycle and, I suspect, largely go to landfill.

To their eternal credit, KeyKeg have recognised this and established a bespoke recycling program called OneCircle to tackle the problem. Launched towards the end of 2018, we jumped at the chance to have our kegs properly recycled, becoming one of the first companies in London (and I think the UK) to have their KeyKegs responsibly recycled back into brand new KeyKegs.

Practically, this has meant partnering with the excellent local recycling company First Mile, who simply swing by to collect our empties for us periodically, and process them into the OneCircle system for us. Of course, this incurs an additional cost to us, but we believe the responsible disposal of our kegs is as important a part of our service as getting fresh beer out to customers in the first place is.

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