Saltwater Brewery Introduces Turtle-Safe Edible Six-Pack Rings

With the hopes of reducing animal entanglements, many people have been dutifully cutting up those plastic six-pack rings (or yokes) that hold together beer and sodas. While that can be helpful, it doesn't address another problem: ingestion of these small bits of plastic by birds and marine life.

Saltwater Brewery in Florida joined with the We Believers advertising agency to develop a creative, environmentally friendly solution to this problem: edible, biodegradable six-pack rings.

"Together we ideated, created, prototyped and just basically believed in our passions," said Chris Gove, president of Saltwater Brewery. "They came together and created something that we both thought could help and change the world."

The rings are created by using wheat and barley from the brewing process. "It is 100 percent biodegradable, compostable and edible because it actually comes from organic fibers and byproducts of the beer process," explains Marco Vega, chief strategy officer of We Believers.

Just how big is the plastic problem? In her Water Planet article "Oceans of Plastic" in the Summer 2015 issue of Alert Diver, Melissa Gaskill reported: "Scientists at Plymouth University in England documented encounters between 693 marine species and manmade debris; 92 percent of these involved plastic. The encounters included entanglement, ingestion, direct damage to the ecosystem (such as coral or seagrass destruction) and rafting, in which debris literally picks up and moves an animal."

A 2015 report by Ocean Conservancy states, "Plastics are now found inside animals throughout the ocean food chain — from mussels to fish to sea turtles to whales. … Research shows plastics in the ocean adsorb chemical contaminants from surrounding seawater. Animals take in these toxins when they ingest plastic items."

"There are gyres throughout the Pacific and Atlantic that have huge plastic islands," Gove said. "Why are we trying to just get rid of something that we keep creating? Why not just go to the source and create something new that doesn't affect the environment? So that's really our goal."

The developers report that this innovative technology is as resistant and efficient as the plastic six-pack rings. Saltwater Brewery plans to produce 400,000 edible six-pack rings per month. If most brewers implement this technology, the manufacturing cost would decrease and be very competitive compared with the current plastic solution, saving hundreds of thousands of marine lives as a result.

"The amount of emails I've got from all the different leaders in the beer industry is amazing," Gove said. "It sounds like everyone is on board to really get behind this. If we all unite and make it just that, then it can be economically feasible for everyone, and it can be the new standard for packaging."