Many beach goers enjoy beverages that typically come in a six-pack such as coke and beer. The rings holding the six-pack together are normally made of plastic and can be deadly to marine life, birds, and other animals. There are approximately 8.8 million tons of plastic released into the ocean each year. Around 700 different species of marine life face extinction from being entangled in plastic, plastic pollution, and plastic ingestion. It is important to consider ways of reducing the amount of waste that is released into the environment and one company has developed a solution; at least for the six-pack.
The Saltwater Brewery, a small craft beer brand in Florida, has developed an ecofriendly alternative to the plastic six-pack rings. They have created edible six-pack rings made from barley and wheat ribbons left over from the brewing process. “Normally, brewers either give the leftover solid food waste to farmers, or they have to pay to dump it. But now, working with We Believers and Entelequia, they’ve developed a way to shape this food waste into six-pack rings, which they say biodegrade over two to three months,” said Chris Gove, co-founder of Saltwater Brewery. If these rings make it to the ocean, they can be safely broken down and eaten by marine animals and shore birds. “Of course, that doesn’t mean people should go lobbing these rings over the sides of their boats—biodegradable or not, ‘pack-in, pack-out’ is still a good mantra to follow,” said Grove.
According to Saltwater Brewery representative Katelyn Perkins, the brewery has already begun filing patents for its edible rings, “Our next steps are to manufacture an aluminum and inox steel-machined mold which allows a production of 400,000 edible six pack rings per month. This should be ready within the next six months,” Perkins said. This is truly innovation at its finest, and may reduce both the amount of plastic used and the amount of plastic released into the environment.
While edible six-pack rings are a step in the right direction, this innovation alone is not enough to solve our marine debris problem. You can help by recycling and reducing the amount of plastic that enters waterways and oceans. Using reusable containers and refillable water bottles is a great place to start. Using alternatives to plastic, such as biodegradable plates and cups, can also cut down on plastic consumption and reduce the amount of plastic pollution in the environment. Additionally, if you do see trash in the environment, clean it up and help prevent the loss of wildlife. Finally, if we all do our part and take action, we can reduce the amount of pollution, clean up the environment, and save species from extinction.