Summer is almost here and many people may be in their backyards opening up cold cans of beer. But the plastic beer six-pack rings that hold those cans are one of the worst types of plastic to end up in the ocean. Though conventional six-pack rings are made from LDPE (low-density polyethylene) and designed to break down under sunlight within 90 days, according to the UNEP, they can still endanger marine wildlife, entangling them or causing suffocation, strangulation or starvation due to a reduction in feeding ability.
With the aim of changing the environmental impact of these troublesome rings, Florida-based Saltwater Brewery collaborated with New York-based ad agency We Believers to create this 100 percent biodegradable, compostable, edible and plastic-free six-pack holder that is made out of wheat and barley -- byproducts of the brewing process.
The team envisions that the edible rings will help reduce the harm that traditional plastic rings can inflict on sea animals, says Gustavo Lauria, co-founder of We Believers:
If our six pack ring ends up in the ocean in a matter of hours it starts breaking down, which also addresses the issue of animals getting stuck in them. [..]
[The project] shows that through innovation the little guys can point the finger at governments and big business to motivate change that impacts our world and the one we will leave for our children.
According to Creativity, 3D printing was used to manufacture the first 500 of these new rings, for the brewery's main brand, Screaming Reel's IPA. The aim is to produce 400,000 per month, to cover the brewery's current production every month. Currently, it costs between 10 and 15 cents per unit, for craft beers priced at more than $10 for a pack of six. The team admits that the high cost may be a deterrent to widespread adoption, but the hope is that more brands and investors will buy into this more environmentally friendly alternative, explains Lauria:
If most craft breweries and big beer companies implement this technology, the manufacturing cost will drop and be very competitive compared with the current plastic solution, while saving hundreds of thousands of marine lives.
With preliminary consumer trials indicating that the rings are strong, durable and yes, edible, it's an intriguing idea that could solve part of the persistent problem of plastics ending up in our oceans. Now, doing away with aluminum beer cans altogether and switching over to a reusable glass bottle system is another worthwhile debate -- check out our links below to read up on that topic. More over at Creativity, We Believers and Saltwater Brewery.