Many Brewers Association member breweries have been contacted by their local scrap yards letting them know that someone has tried to sell one or more of their kegs for scrap value. At 30 pounds empty weight, a typical stainless steel keg might be worth around $24 (January 2013 scrap price for 304 stainless steel of ~80 cents per pound).
While the price of scrap fluctuates, recent history has shown that the scrap value of a keg is easily the same or higher than a typical $20-30 deposit.
Many states have laws prohibiting the scrapping of kegs. Others require clear title presented by the owner named on the keg. The California legislature has taken the extra step to make it illegal for any person to obliterate, mutilate or mark out the manufacturers name on a metal keg without the written consent of the manufacturer. Unfortunately, there are also many states that have no laws prohibiting a scrap yard from accepting a keg, with or without a title in hand. An incomplete but informative list of the regulations from a few dozen states illustrates the range of efforts to stop metal thieves.
Scrap yard owners should be aware that brewers almost never intend for kegs to be scrapped, nor do they sell empty kegs to individuals. Kegs brought in for scrap have most likely been obtained illegally.
Scrap yard owners should know that brewers collect a deposit from wholesalers, usually in the $15-30 range, designed to incentivize the return of the keg once empty. Wholesalers in turn collect a similar deposit from retailers. Payment of the deposit does not convey ownership of a keg, which always remains the property of the brewery. Keg owner MicroStar is a non-brewer exception—they own kegs and lease them to brewers.
Many scrap yard operators prominently display this message from the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) on their premises. ISRI, a trade association of scrap yard operators, recently joined forces with the Brewers Association to issue a joint statement denouncing the practice of scrapping kegs. ISRI also operates a stolen metal website called ScrapTheftAlert.com, allowing brewers to report stolen kegs and quickly notify area scrap yard subscribers.