No, this isn’t some sort of human centipede thing. Lightweight Containers is the company behind one of the leading one-way plastic keg technologies — the KeyKeg. Well, those one-way kegs are finding a second way after delivery. The company has now started several pilot projects for collecting used KeyKegs, and at Drinktec in Germany, Lightweight Containers presented the first KeyKegs made from 10 percent used KeyKegs and a total of 40 percent recycled materials. This percentage will rise rapidly as the collection of used KeyKegs expands.
The plastic recycling industry is a relatively new one and is rapidly developing. Plastic products with a more complex composition are not yet being recycled on a large scale. “That’s why we decided to work with a few leaders in the recycling industry itself to develop new recycling methods,” said Bert Hansen, chief technology officer of Lightweight Containers. “We spent two and a half years looking for the best technologies and started our own project. Now, we’re on the verge of a huge breakthrough. After a long period of development, we’ve arrived at the point where we can process used KeyKegs on a recycling line. It has helped development enormously that the KeyKeg has a circular design and already mostly consists of mono materials. We can already reuse 81 percent of a KeyKeg.”
Collection as a service
Lightweight Containers has started two pilot projects for collecting used kegs. As Chief Commercial Officer Anita Veenendaal, explained, “The logistics are a challenge. After all, you want to set up the logistical process so that you have fewer trips and thus minimal CO2 emissions from transport, and at the same time you want the recovered material to cover the costs of processing.
“We have worked out several models and are testing them now. We’re testing two of them in Amsterdam; one through beverage distributors who collect the empty kegs during their rounds, and the other once they’ve been separated out of the garbage after collection by the city. The KeyKegs are then compressed and brought to our recycling sites, thousands at a time. The beverage distributors see it as a service for their customers, and the bars and restaurants are happy to cooperate. Although it’s just a pilot, all the signs are that it will be a great success. We expect to start a similar pilot in the United Kingdom, a large and growing market for us. Lastly, we’re also testing various collection methods at beer and music festivals. We expect that this will give us a set of collection methods that we can implement in other cities and countries.”
First circular KeyKeg
At Drinktec, Lightweight Containers displayed the first circular KeyKeg, consisting of approximately 10 percent used KeyKegs. The company intends to keep increasing this amount by collecting as many used KeyKegs as possible to reuse for producing new KeyKegs.
Jan Veenendaal, CEO of LWC, said, “We believe that there is only a future for sustainable companies and their suppliers, who together make circular products. Ultimately there’s only room for products that don’t harm the environment. We’re working with the most advanced environmental management software, and we know where in our operations we still can improve our performance. So we realize all the more that we can’t do this without working together with suppliers, our supply chain and the recycling industry. It’s very encouraging that all these parties are so willing to work with us and are helping us to make KeyKeg a circular product.”
KeyKegs are currently sold to customers in more than 70 countries and are in use in nearly 180 countries. KeyKegs are produced in Germany, the Netherlands and the USA. Lightweight Containers plans to build a new production line in 2017 and more in the next few years.