The Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) of beer packaging determines its environmental impact

A common remark we hear from a variety of beer professionals is that steel kegs are much better for the environment and are the epitome of a ‘circular economy’, purely because they can be cleaned and reused.

Often the remark is made either by an ‘end-user’ who actually cares little because he/she simply returns the steel keg to the distribution point, or by somebody who recognises there may be both social and economical sense in switching to something with less environmental impact — often for reasons of kudos, brownie-points and more acceptance by a younger, more environmentally-aware consumer — but is not in possession of the necessary facts.

OneCircle BV: “The data usually do not exist or are not available.  Many companies don’t know how to calculate their environmental impact, or are wary of sharing their results…[making]…it easy for companies to ‘greenwash’ – to make nice green promises that are not always completely true or objective.  The internet is bursting with these fine promises, and ‘truths’ that are completely off the mark.”

This article provides a brief insight into the Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) that determines the environmental impact of a product throughout its lifecycle: 

The LCA output is expressed in kilograms of CO2 or financially as an environmental cost indicator (ECI) — the closer an ECI to zero (completely circular with no more environmental impact), the better.

In the “KNOWLEDGE IS POWER” section we can see how the aforementioned supporter of a steel keg may obtain the necessary information to make an objective decision.

He/she could ask the supplier/distributor for results of the manufacturer’s LCA to compare the CO2 footprint and ECI (expressed per litre of beverage) with the alternatives.  He/she could ask if any analysis include usage as well as production.  He/she could ask if the results have been independently verified.  With this knowledge (power), he/she can obtain an environmental impact calculation for an average shipment.