The harmful effects of plastic, both on our oceans and lakes, is no secret.
That’s why Saltwater Brewery, a craft brewer based in Florida, came up with an ingenious alternative to the plastic six-pack rings known to get ingested by wildlife or caught around their necks.
With the help of an ad agency known as We Believers, the brewery is rolling out a brand new approach to packaging for their Screamin’ Reels IPA. Not only will the rings be 100 percent biodegradable, but they can actually be safely eaten by marine mammals, so there’s no chance they’ll end up trapped in a corset of plastic.
Using wheat and barley that’s leftover from the beer-brewing process, the engineers at Saltwater have actually managed to make something that could not only provide marine creatures with a snack, but could also stand up to the typical weight and handling of the cans.
Producing this type of packaging does come at an additional cost, but Saltwater Brewery is betting that its clientele will be willing to pay the difference if it means helping the environment.
According to a recent study, eight million tons of plastic was dumped into the ocean in 2010. Even worse, the tonnage is expected to increase in the next decade if we don’t find a way to reduce our reliance on plastic and manage the residual waste. Not surprisingly, this has grave effects on marine life: hundreds of thousands of marine mammals, and more than 1 million seabirds die each year from ocean pollution and ingestion or entanglement in marine debris.
So far the company’s only created a few hundred of the holders, but they’re planning to ramp up production and make up to 400,000 edible six-pack rings a month. And they’re hoping that’s just the start—ideally larger breweries and drink companies will pick up on the idea, and one day follow suit.
“It’s a big investment for a small brewery created by fisherman, surfers, and people that love the sea,” President Chris Grove told Craft Beer. “We hope to influence the big guys and hopefully inspire them to get on board.”
Grove also said that if more companies adopted the technology, it would drive the price down, making these wildlife-friendly rings as cheap as the plastic ones currently used for beer, soda, and other canned beverages.