Bubble, Bubble…

We’ve seen it happen all the time: wandering folks, minding their own business, glancing over, then, like moths to the flame, entranced and ensared, approach our table of recycled goods. “What ARE these things?,” they murmur while gently tapping and twirling the hypnotic items. “They’re kegs. Well, they used to be kegs anyway,” we respond, bringing them back to reality. “What? What do you mean ‘keg’?” They don’t believe us. This always happens.

Our most creative bubble keg display to date.

What has come to be our best-seller, bubble-shaped plastic orbs, are known as KeyKegs. They are the product of a “green” demand for packaging in the beer and wine industries, allowing smaller producers the option of distributing their product and reaching more distant markets. The plastic bubble is topped with a plastic device that acts as a tap, and from that a mylar bag expands into the bubble as it’s filled with liquid. As the liquid gets consumed, the bag, or bladder as it’s sometimes called, shrinks. For creative reuse purposes, we saw off the tapping device, allowing the bladder to come out, and voila–magical plastic bubble! The keg itself comes in a cardboard container, making every part of this newfound packaging recyclable.

Bubble kegs as we receive them, in cardboard and with bladders.

Before and After...and my cute curtains.

Unfortunately, as with all too-good-to-be-true things, there’s a catch: between the bladder and the plastic bubble? CO2. And guess what needs to happen to the recyclable keg so that it can get recycled? Yeah, it’s not pretty. In fact, it’s rather dangerous. If the CO2 is not emitted prior to being recycled–either by us or a recycling company–the bubble can explode, rocketing plastic schrapnel to whoever or whatever nearby. If the keg gets too hot, or jostled too much, or dropped from a sharp point, it can explode. It’s this exploding factor that keeps the recycling companies shying away from them, and so the kegs literally end up floating in the landfill. The stuff’s under pressure, y’all, don’t mess with it.

The whole cardboard case is here to tell you what NOT to do with bubble kegs. Here are a few.

Another warning: the CO2 is angry!

So we intercept them, and, yes, we have the–very tangible–key that allows us to emit the CO2. As I said, not pretty. But the good news is that we’re all drinking well, and the better news is is that we have the new enchanting things to make stuff with. Is it worth it, though? Truth is, what we think of as traditional kegs, the steel barrel-shaped vessels, are more recyclable than these recyclable kegs. (I’ve seen some that date back to 1971!) Only, they’re more expensive to make, require a hefty contract for brewers to use, and tend to get lost or stolen–all of which translates to higher costs of goods (see: beer and wine) for you and me, more CO2 in the atmosphere, and the possibility of steel kegs floating in the landfills. They also have to be transported back and forth between customer and distributor and brewer (and back again), so when you figure out the impact of all that travelling, well…And the KeyKegs are much smaller than normal kegs, so the CO2 emission is rather small, comparatively. Tell you what, if we have a tree planting day, will that make you feel better about using them?

And how do you use them? We get asked this right after, “A keg? Really?” I think the magic of the bubble keg is that no one looks at them the same way. I’ve made lamps from them; others have made terrariums. One lady had magical garden plans for them (and if this is you, please send us photos!). You can fill one with string lights and hang it, or make a cool spaceman-type costume. I think a neat mural idea would be to paint someone blowing bubbles, then strategically place bubble kegs along the wall, bringing a surreal 3D aspect to an outdoor installation. As with everything we provide, the possibilities are endless, and there are answers out there waiting to be explored.

A bubble keg lamp I made...and Susan's cute curtains.

What would you do with one? We’ll have bubble kegs galore at Atlanta’s Mini Maker Faire September 10th! Come by, check out other people’s handmade gear, and get yourself a bubble keg. Your imagination awaits!

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4 Responses to Bubble, Bubble…

  1. KeyKeg team says:

    Dear Sally,
    Thank you for showing us these beautifull, creative examples of reuse. We have some great other examples of creative reuse, if you are interested please send us your e-mail address (info@keykeg.com) and we’ll send you some pictures.

    Indeed KeyKeg is a pressurized container like for example spray cans and steel kegs. Nobody punctures these packagings and it’s indeed important not to puncture a KeyKeg as well which is risky too. When you do not have a KeyKeg tool to depressurize a KeyKeg you can use both dumps by pressing the fitting. Did you receive the KeyKegs depressurized like we instruct all the bars and restaurants?

    KeyKeg are certainly when beer and wine are transported over longer distances much better for the environment. They eliminate the return transport of empty kegs and because they are lightweight more than 25% beer can be transported every time. One KeyKeg 30 replaces 40 bottles of wine (0.75cl) or more than 90 tins (0.33 cl)…..

    KeyKeg’s are very much ready for recycling.We are like a lot of other packaging producers still dependent on the local circumstances. In Alberta they recycle 100% of our KeyKegs. In Bulgaria for example they send all there packaging still to the landfill…. We are working on a worldwide system to recycle KeyKegs ourselves. But this can not be done overnight.

    We are trying our very best to convince bars, hotels and restaurants to use air instead of CO2. This is only possible with KeyKeg since the propellant gas does not make contact with the beer or wine. They have with KeyKeg a choice now!

    We hope to have positively contributed to your nice article.

    With kind regards,

    The KeyKeg team

  2. Sally says:

    Thanks for your insights, KeyKeg team! I’m happy to know that there’s a choice now for air or CO2 to be used, and wholly impressed you’re trying to change the world’s recycling system. We’re trying too, but just in our area (for now, at least). Good luck with that!

    We get the KeyKegs from local bars, and they’ve been so kind to let us borrow their depressurizing tool. Please send your photos to creativereuse@wonderroot.org. We’d love to see them! Thanks again, Sally and the WonderRoot Creative Reuse team

  3. Gustavo says:

    Did you guys figure out how to open without damaging it?

    • Sally says:

      Yes! There is a special “key,” that’s why they call them Key Kegs. It’s actually disc shaped and our’s came from the bar that was throwing out the kegs. (I think the bar got it directly from the beer distributor.) You simply twist it on and it releases the gas. Then, we drilled holes into them and sawed around the tap. After that, we just pulled everything out and cleaned them. Little intensive, but worth it! That gas is no joke. Two words: plastic schrapnel. Good luck!

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