Rubber Pallet Bands: The Shrink-Wrap Alternative for an Efficient, Sustainable Brewery

Case Studies, Pallet Bands, Rubber Bands


New Green Solution Delivers Significant Savings & Keg Stability for Drake’s Brewing

Closeup of silver beer keg with red logo for Drake's Brewing Co with large green rubber band around pallet of kegsBefore switching to environmentally friendly practices, one brewery relied on plastic shrink-wrap for stabilizing their empty kegs while moving them across the facility. While effective, the process was labor intensive and wasteful. In 2019, they found a simple solution to their problem—Rubber Pallet Bands from Aero Rubber Company®, Inc. Green in more ways than one, reusable rubber pallet bands resulted in dramatic savings on disposal costs, budget, and labor time for the brewery. These savings have allowed them to invest in other sustainable practices, and optimize their business and budget, thanks to this simple, cost-effective solution.

The Challenge

Sustainability, Reduced Costs, Efficiency

When it comes to stabilizing pallet loads, you really can have it all. For Drake’s Brewing Company in San Leandro, California, a transition to more sustainable practices was on their minds years before Hal McConnellogue, then Cellar Manager, discovered Aero Rubber. “I was looking for ways to reduce waste on my own,” said McConnellogue, now the brewing company’s Sustainability Manager. But 2019 brought a challenge that Drake’s turned into an opportunity—a trash violation.

Following the violation, McConnellogue requested a free county waste management audit of their facility. In assessing Drake’s Brewing’s processes, the auditor noted their significant shrink-wrap usage. At the time, when new kegs were dropped off from distributors, they were transported from the receiving area to the keg washing area, located in a separate building at the other end of their complex. There, the kegs were stripped of shrink-wrap, washed, and then rewrapped in shrink-wrap before being transported to their storage area. The kegs then needed to be unwrapped once more to be filled with beer.

Not only was Drake’s Brewing’s shrink-wrap usage staggering but disposing of it was also troublesome.

The waste management auditor told McConnellogue about a grant through the county for investing in reusable transportation materials. The $5,000 grant allowed Drake’s Brewing to explore shrink-wrap alternatives for drastically dialing back their budget and environmental impact.

The Solution

Pallets of empty kegs, secured by large green rubber bandsThe first suggestion the auditor made was to try mesh pallet wraps instead, but the cumbersome wraps took a long time to apply and were excessive for the application at hand. Their next solution, ratchet straps, was also off the mark. “They were really hard to use because you had to keep tension on them the whole time,” McConnellogue said. “Otherwise, they’d fall toward the bottom of the keg. And you needed two people to put them on.” Trials with poly strapping were promising, but also time-consuming, due to the equipment involved.

When McConnellogue checked in with the county waste management auditor, he aired his concerns about the options he’d found. “The auditor said he had seen a food facility using big rubber bands, and maybe that would work for us. He said he had some samples.”

Samples in hand, the team set up a test to evaluate the bands. Forklift drivers double stacked the kegs, stabilized them with the rubber pallet bands, and went full speed down a bumpy shipping alley between Drake’s Brewing’s two complexes. Not only did the kegs stay securely in place, but the ease of application saved their workers’ time, which was also the main concern with other solutions they’d tried. Pleased with how well the bands performed, Drake’s Brewing Co. reached out to Aero Rubber Company® to place an order.

The Results

Fast ROI

With an investment of just $500, Drake’s was up and running with several hundred rubber pallet bands to transport their empty kegs. It took just over three months for the company to achieve ROI. After one year of use, the company had replaced 226,248 square feet of plastic shrink-wrap with rubber pallet bands, massively reducing the company’s plastic waste output. Since 2019, the trend has continued, with another 61,886 square feet of plastic shrink-wrap eliminated between 2020 and 2021, further reducing shrink-wrap and disposal costs.

“Pallet Bands are super affordable, and you’ll make your money back instantly.”

—Hal McConnellogue, Sustainability Manager of Drake’s Brewing Co.

User-Friendly Load Stabilization

Pallet bands also improved the team’s efficiency, allowing them to stack empty kegs four high, each level secured with its own pallet band, to transport around the facility. “It’s super secure,” McConnellogue said. “I don’t think anybody’s ever had one break.” The days of unwrapping and rewrapping kegs for washing are in the past and the team’s processes with new keg shipments are much faster now.

As far as usability, Aero’s rubber pallet bands alleviated many safety concerns that are present with shrink-wrap. “Wrapping stuff in stretch wrap takes a long time. Typically, you’re walking backwards and you could trip and fall over something,” McConnellogue said. Pallet bands, on the other hand, are easily applied by one employee, no equipment or training required. “Anybody on their first attempt can put a band around a pallet of goods,” McConnellogue noted. Plus, the rubber material of the bands provides a solid grip against the metal of the kegs, making it easy to apply the bands and keep them in place.

McConnellogue also highlighted that the green bands are easy to spot in a facility filled with steel machinery and can be hung up on hooks around the warehouse for easy access. “When anybody’s moving anything that warrants wrapping something up, that’s what they grab,” McConnellogue said. This includes bags of grain that slide around during transport.

Reusable = Sustainable

On top of the ROI and usability benefits, pallet bands are an extremely impactful step toward a greener business. Since the rubber pallet bands are reusable, the same band can be used many times before needing to be replaced. “They last forever,” McConnellogue said of the pallet bands.

In just the first year of using Aero’s rubber pallet bands, Drake’s prevented 565 pounds of plastic waste from entering landfills, compared to the previous year, and their shrink-wrap budget was slashed in half. Three years later, the company’s total shrink-wrap budget is down 75%, while their in-house shrink-wrap use is reduced by 95%. “You’re eliminating all your stretch wrap waste,” McConnellogue pointed out. “If you’re a small brewery, you can reduce your waste for landfills very quickly.”

Their overall shrink-wrap waste is now so minimal that they were able to invest in a baler to compact plastic waste from their incoming shipments from distributors. They store many bales worth of plastic waste before calling out a dedicated recycling company, taking their sustainability efforts to the next level.

What’s Next

Black and white logo for Drake's Brewing CompanyNow, when workers from other breweries visit Drake’s Brewing’s facility and see the pallet bands, they ask the team about their banding process. “They want to know where they can get them,” McConnellogue said. “I give them a bundle to try.”

Drake’s Brewing’s next mission, according to McConnellogue, is getting industry partners onboard with using pallet bands. His message to those companies? “The solution is already here. Don’t waste any more time. Pallet Bands are super affordable, and you’ll make your money back instantly.”

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