Water/Wastewater

Are Edible Six-Pack Holders the Key to Protecting Marine Life?

Jun 17 2016 Read 1175 Times

It has long been known that the plastic which holds six-pack cans together is damaging to the marine population of this planet. The majority of these holders end up in the ocean, and although many people cut the plastic to avoid entrapping the feet of birds or the bodies of fish, this does not stop the animals ingesting it.

However, a brewery in the United States believe they have come up with a solution to the dilemma. Saltwater Brewery from Florida have designed a substitute made from waste produce from the brewing process. Not only is this an admirable form of recycling, the rings are also apparently 100% biodegradable, compostable and edible.

A monumental problem

According to a promotional video on their website, 50% of the 6.3 million cans of beer drank in the United States last year used plastic six-pack rings, with the majority of that plastic ending up in the sea. Plastic reaches the ocean via a myriad of different methods, including through improper waste disposal, flooded sewage systems and being blown by the wind.

Once there, it wreaks havoc with the ocean’s ecosystems. Saltwater Brewery have estimated the six-pack rings account for up to 1,000,000 deaths of seabirds each year. A recent journal entry claimed that 90% of birds have already ingested plastic, and that percentage is expected to leap up to 99% by 2050. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of water-dwelling mammals and amphibians are killed every year either through becoming trapped in the rings or consuming them and dying as a result.

Indeed, the spotlight has been thrust upon the poor state of some of the world’s oceans with the imminent Olympic Games, set to take place in Rio de Janeiro in a few weeks’ time. An advanced Rio lab has warned of water quality danger – if the seas aren’t safe enough for athletes to compete in, how can they possibly be safe for animals to live in?

A simple but ingenious solution

Saltwater Brewery have found a way to circumvent the problem by manufacturing six-pack rings from wheat and barley residue, left over from the brewing process. Due to their organic makeup, the rings will simply disintegrate over time and cause no harm to the environment.

Alternatively, if they are eaten by the animals, they will not damage their gastrointestinal systems due to the fact they are essentially constructed from crops. While scientists and researchers have long been looking for ways to use waste materials (including plastics) as fuel feedstock, the move by the brewing company represents an important breakthrough in safeguarding the future of the planet’s marine life for years to come.

With a structure that is apparently as effective and as durable as plastic in holding the cans together, there seems to be no reason why all breweries shouldn’t be using the organic substitute. Saltwater Brewing certainly see things that way.

“We want to influence the big guys and inspire them to get on board,” explained Chris Gove, president of the company. Hopefully the other major players in the industry will follow suit before too long.

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