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Press Release
16th June 2006

The Work of Keg Watch Limited

The loss of kegs, casks and dispense gas cylinders (containers) is a continuing problem for brewers, container owners and dispense gas suppliers. This problem is now exaggerated by the high demand for metals, especially stainless steel, for China and the Far East, with stainless steel being the preferred material for kegs and casks. These containers are seen as an easy target for theft and destruction due to their high scrap value. Over the years brewers have launched a number of initiatives that have had the effect of reducing losses although these are still considerable at many millions of pounds per year.

Keg Watch Limited is an organisation working within the Brewing Industry with over 350 members ranging from micro to international brewers, cider makers, container owners and dispense gas suppliers. Its aim is to continuously improve the recovery of containers via liaison with the licensed trade, beer wholesalers and pub companies.

Keg Watch Limited endeavours to identify containers that have fallen outside the normal distribution process and are therefore deemed to be ‘at risk’ to theft for their scrap value by being crushed if they are stainless steel or smelted/crushed if they are aluminium. By far the biggest container losses are as a result of secondary wholesaling activity and this type of wholesaler falls into two categories: 1) Those who purchase directly from large primary wholesalers and 2) Those who operate licensed retail premises and buy product at retail price discount and then sell it on. Many of these operations are not interested in the return of the empty containers and as a result the normal distribution process is broken. Whilst brewers continue to allow containers to be supplied into these customers who have little or no thought for container return then significant losses will continue. The other area where container losses are high is from licensed premises due to the insecure storage of empties. In many instances empty containers are left out in car parks, in the open backyard and at the roadside on footpaths.

Due to the problems mentioned above, keg, cask and dispense gas cylinder thieves have access to ‘easy pickings’ every day of the week, every week of the year! Although custodial sentences and heavy fines are still meted out to offenders who steal and carry out the unauthorised destruction or misuse of containers, it is like shutting the door after the horse has bolted. More care and consideration needs to be exercised when deciding on suitable customer profiles and the monitoring of returning empties needs to be as thorough as the distribution counts to directly supplied customers. In the case of empties at licensed premises they must be stored securely until uplifted by dray crews. If there is no space to keep empties in cellars or in locked backyards then they can at least be chained together. However, suppliers also need to play their part and ensure they uplift at least on a one to one basis.

Keg Watch is managed by an Executive Committee comprised of brewing and allied trades security specialists, distribution managers and container managers whose aim it is to repatriate ‘at risk’ containers in the most efficient and cost effective manner back to their owners. During 2005 a tracking facility named SPA-Trak was made available to members giving them the opportunity to locate their containers in yards belonging to others. SPA-Trak is further intended to improve the returns process, thus saving owners the cost of replacing these valuable assets and therefore reducing the need to manufacture replacement containers and thus, help to alleviate the effect that the manufacturing process has on the environment.

Containers have been recovered from a number of diverse locations such as quarries, horse stables (where they were used to contain a manure heap), pig farms (pigs like beer), rivers, canals, beaches, garages (used to store fuel) and from building sites where they are often used to support planks. In Scotland a lifeboat recovered kegs for us from the River Clyde! The misuse of kegs and casks is probably most common where they are cut in half and used as plant pots or barbecues.

Great importance is attached to liaison with police forces and other Government agencies when criminal activity is suspected in respect of containers or ancillary property. Keg Watch provides advice and assistance to its members in the pursuance of prosecutions and the recovery of stolen or misappropriated containers, as well as providing advertising, press releases, helplines and other useful information all aimed at increasing the awareness of the general public.

Keg Watch Limited operates Keg Line which is a confidential 24 hour freephone number 0808 100 1945 and a web site www.kegwatch.co.uk for use by any person having knowledge or information regarding containers which are, in their opinion, ‘at risk’ or ultimately likely to be subject to theft or misappropriation.


Editor’s Note

Further information can be found by contacting Keg Watch Limited either by telephoning 0808 100 1945 or by visiting the web site www.kegwatch.co.uk.


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