Coors Light Announces End to Plastic Beer Rings

The shift is expected to prevent 1.7 million pounds of plastic waste annually.

Coors Light six-pack in cardboard sleeve

Coors Light

For the first time in nearly a half-century, a six-pack of Coors Light will no longer include the single-use, wildlife-entangling, and wasteful plastic ring packaging. Molson Coors, the parent company of the popular light beer, recently announced a nearly $85 million investment that will shift all of its beer brands to sustainable cardboard-wrapped packaging by the end of 2025. 

“Our business, and Coors in particular, has a long history of using packaging innovation to protect our environment, and today we are building on that rich legacy,” Molson Coors CEO Gavin Hattersley said in a statement. “Just as Coors led the way by pioneering the recyclable aluminum can, Coors Light will lead the way by moving out of single-use plastic rings in North America.”

That transition, effective immediately, will also be applied to Coors Light’s international markets in Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the Caribbean. Molson Coors estimates that eliminating plastic rings from its brands will save an estimated 1.7 million pounds of plastic waste annually. 

A Symbol of Harmful Plastic Waste

First invented in the 1960s, plastic rings for canned beverages such as the six-pack quickly became the standard. The waste that naturally followed sometimes became waterborne, with plastic rings entangling or strangling marine wildlife and joining other plastics in polluting waterways. A 1988 Center for Marine Conservation publication claimed that during a beach cleanup in 1987 along 300 miles of Texas coastlines, more than 15,600 six-pack rings were found in three hours. 

During the mid-1990s, the Environmental Protection Agency addressed the growing concern over plastic rings by mandating that all ring-carriers in the U.S. be biodegradable. Most plastic rings currently made generally degrade in sunlight over the course of several months (depending on the weather), but that still presents a sizable window of time to harm marine life.

More sustainable and animal-friendly alternatives have also been invented over the last several years, such as edible rings made from wheat and barley, and plant-based biodegradable fibers. In 2018 Danish brewer Carlsberg introduced six-packs held together with glue.

plastic ring holding a beer can

Image Source / Getty Images

An End to Rings

For Coors, updating its manufacturing to support fully recyclable and sustainably sourced cardboard carriers is yet another milestone in a history rich with waste reduction. In January 1959, Coors debuted the two-piece aluminum can as a means to reduce the waste created by steel cans, encourage recycling, and create a beer that stayed colder and tasted better. Its impact absolutely transformed the beverage industry and help to kickstart resource recycling.

In recent years, they’ve shifted five of their eight breweries in the U.S. to landfill-free status, installed the largest solar-powered brewery in the country (3.2 MW) in Irwindale, California, and are aiming for, among other green goals, to source 100% of agricultural brewing ingredients by 2025 from suppliers who grow, produce and deliver in a sustainable manner. 

“We’re not just doing this because it’s a current fad or trend,” Zach Fatla, a former Coors Light Senior Marketing Manager, said in 2017. “Sustainability has been deep in Coors’ roots and DNA since we helped revolutionize the industry with recycling almost 60 years ago. We’re proud of that legacy, but it’s equally important for us to launch new initiatives and continue walking the walk today.”

Let’s hope that this is the beginning of the end for plastic rings and that, much like their introduction of the recyclable aluminum can over 50 years ago, Coors' leadership and sustainable innovation is contagious across the beverage industry.

View Article Sources
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