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London Works to Keep Plastic Beverage Kegs from Landfill

First Mile and KeyKeg kickstart a closed loop recycling program for plastic beer kegs.

Most plastic beverage kegs in the U.K. are not recycled and often end up in landfill. To overcome this problem, First Mile has teamed up with KeyKeg and OneCircle to create a circular program that recycles plastic kegs, turning them into new, usable plastic kegs.

The program has been launched as a pilot in London, where First Mile collects the used KeyKegs from bars and delivers them to plastic recycling specialists OneCircle, where they are then processed and turned back into KeyKegs—a circular economy product.

More than 90 percent of the plastic kegs in the U.K. are KeyKegs, so once rolled out, this initiative will dramatically reduce the number of plastic kegs being thrown into general waste and potentially ending up in landfill. 

Lightweight Containers, the company behind KeyKeg, actively works as a packaging producer with KeyKegs in the waste phase. Together with its customers, beverage distributors and bars, the company is building a community that is collecting KeyKegs and preparing them for processing. OneCircle, an initiative of the company Lightweight Containers, is responsible for the recycling and transportation of KeyKegs.

First Mile, a carbon-neutral waste processor working for more than 25,000 companies in London, sees new opportunities with the collection of KeyKegs.

"We estimate that more than 500,000 KeyKegs end up in London every year, and it is great that we can now use them as raw materials again,” said Joe Allen, chief commercial officer of First Mile, in a statement. “It meets a huge need. Many bars have heard that we are going to process KeyKegs and have spontaneously saved them up. It is clear to them that a lot of plastic ends up in landfill, and they want to prevent that from happening. The time has come to work together with packaging producers on closed loops, and KeyKeg is leading the way."

In England, OneCircle is building a nationwide collection network. Members of the network collect and crush the KeyKegs into bales. OneCircle collects the bales and transports around 12,000 KeyKegs per truckload to the processing plant.

"We're aiming to reuse the raw materials worldwide. Ideally, this would be to make the next KeyKegs, but we want to minimize our ecological footprint, so it may be more sustainable in some situations to make them into other high-quality recycled products,” said Annemieke Hartman from OneCircle in a statement. “We can recycle our kegs now because years ago, we designed the KeyKeg & UniKeg with circularity in mind. We have developed various collection models and recycling methods and are supporting circular solutions around the globe. We work together with brewers, beverage distributors and innovative waste companies such as First Mile and GroenCollect. We have developed tools that allow our supply chain to separate the valuable materials and are actively looking for people and companies to join our fast-growing community.”

The plastic recycling industry in Europe is struggling with the rapidly growing, complex streams of plastic. There are more than 250 types of plastic and only a few can be reused. The vast majority of them are used in one-off, low-value applications, or either landfilled or incinerated. A KeyKeg consists of 81 percent PP and PET, two types of plastics that can be reused as a circular raw material. The rest of the materials can be used in other high-quality applications. Each KeyKeg already consists of 30 percent recycled material. This share will increase further in 2019 to 40 percent, the companies noted.

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