When plastic beer rings are discarded, they often find their way into the ocean, where they pose a threat to any marine animal that mistakes them for food. But what if the rings were made entirely from edible materials?
That is the premise behind a new six-pack ring for beer cans that has been developed by a Florida-based brewery.
Saltwater Brewery has teamed up with advertising agency We Believers to design, test and prototype the uniquely wildlife-friendly packaging. Because it has been made using by-products of the beer making process – such as barley and wheat – the six-pack ring is suitable for consumption by animals, as well as people.
The company has said that, with 6.3 billion gallons of beer consumed in the US alone last year – half of it packaged in cans – the fully biodegradable beer rings could help to reduce the negative impact of discarded packaging.
We Believers chief creative officer Gustavo Lauria said: “Most plastic six-pack rings end up in our oceans and pose a serious threat to wildlife.
“Together with Saltwater Brewery, a small craft beer brand in Florida whose primary target is surfers, fishermen and people who love the sea, we decided to tackle the issue head on and make a statement for the whole beer industry to follow.”
And, as marine biologist Mark Tokulka explained, the need for the product was well-documented: “Around the world, an estimated 1 million sea birds and 100,000 marine mammals and sea turtles become entrapped in plastic or ingest it and die.”
But the challenge was to strike a balance between six-pack rings that are edible to sea turtles, yet still strong enough to hold the weight of the cans.
Francisco Garcia, chief engineer at Entelequia, said: “Besides being 100% biodegradable, compostable and edible, it had to be strong enough to hold the weight under typical handling of the cans.”
Peter Agardy, head of brand for Saltwater Brewery, admitted that the development was “a big investment for a small brewery” and conceded that the cost of production for the edible beer rings was higher than typical versions, potentially providing a stumbling block for a wider industrial rollout. But the company has also said that it hopes consumers will be willing to pay more for the conscientious packaging – and among its initial reception, there have been some signs of promise.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2019