Traditional Six Pack Rings Kill Marine Animals
Nearly everyone has seen the striking images of sea birds and animals stuck in plastic six pack rings. These dramatic images highlight an issue happening every day on coasts around the world—animals are getting stuck in the plastic restraints, are injured and often die.
A global effort for people to cut the rings before throwing them away has been successful in freeing many animals, but an even greater problem is still at large: marine animals eating the plastic rings. The majority of six pack rings from around the world eventually end up in the ocean, which has led to millions of animals getting caught in the rings or eating them and dying. The chemicals used in making the rings, as well as the bacteria that attaches to the plastic through use, can be deadly for animals. A report published in PNAS found that 90 percent of seabirds have eaten plastic. In fact, researchers estimate that be 2050, every dead seabird will have plastic in their stomach.
Saltwater Brewery’s Edible Six Pack Rings
It’s a disheartening problem that seems to get worse as beer consumption increases around the world, but one Florida brewery is taking a stance and hoping to lead other, larger beer producers in a more sustainable direction. Saltwater Brewery, based in Delray Beach and targeted towards surfers, fishers, and water lovers, recently introduced the first ever 100% biodegradable and edible six pack rings. That means that instead of harming sea animals, the rings can actually feed them.
Watch clip about the edible six pack rings
These unique rings are completely compostable and biodegradable, yet still strong enough to hold the cans together and provide a comfortable customer experience. Saltwater Brewery uses barley, wheat, and other byproducts from the brewing process that are safe for humans and animals to eat. The end result is a tasty snack that is completely safe to eat if it ever ends up in an animal’s path. Although plastic six pack rings are now made of photo-degradable plastic that dissolves in sunlight and eventually breaks down, that process often doesn’t happen until up to 90 days, which leaves a wide window of time for animals to get stuck or ingest the rings. Instead, the biodegradable rings are safe from day one and keep animals out of harm’s way.
A Challenge to the Big Brewers
If such a good alternative exists, why does almost every brewery, including the large producers, stay with plastic rings? The answer is simple: cost. While Saltwater Brewery admits the cost for the biodegradable rings is higher, it hopes that customers will feel they can use their can of beer to make a difference in the environment. In the grand scheme of the 67 billion cans of beer that are consumed worldwide every year, Saltwater Brewery’s production of 4.8 million cans is a drop in the bucket. But the company hopes it can use this platform to motivate the larger beer producers, like Coors and Budweiser, to use biodegradable six pack rings as well. The more breweries that adopt the practice, the cheaper the rings will be to produce, which makes them more appealing to customers and vendors. In fact, if the majority of beer producers switched to the eco-friendly rings, the cost could potentially be the same or even less than the current plastic rings.
Saltwater Brewery is a great example of a smaller company taking bold action to fight a devastating environmental issue. This simple change can empower customers, raise awareness, and potentially have a huge impact on marine life. Time will tell if the practice catches on.
In the meantime, beer drinkers can indulge while feeling good about doing their part to help endangered animals, and sea animals around the world will be a little safer and better fed.