Saltwater Brewery of Delray Beach, Florida is making a strong environmental change for the better… one six-pack at a time.
The company, known for Screamin’ Reels IPA and Sea Cow Milk Stout, has partnered up with We Believers ad agency to create the first-of-its-kind edible beer packaging rings—a product that feeds animals, rather than kill them. Developed from a material made of barley and wheat leftover from the brewing process, the edible rings are baked in the oven like bread dough and hardens into a six-pack ring mold. The end result is an environmental masterpiece which not only replaces plastic, but is also 100% biodegradable and nourishing for both humans and animals.
Why target beer packaging? Out of the 6.3 billion gallons of beer drunk every year, 50% of that is enjoyed from cans, and the horrific number of dying marine life tells us that most of the plastic made into six-pack rings end up in the ocean. According to The Ocean Conservancy’s 2015 Annual Ocean Trash Index, littering isn’t the only culprit. Plastic can be swept up by wind from trashcans, landfills, and dumpsters, blown into storm drains, and carried through pipes into the ocean. These plastic rings go on to trap the small heads of curious creatures, like sea turtles, birds, and marine mammals, who often mistake the plastic as floating food.
Once upon a time, environmentalists suggested to cut the rings so the circle would be incomplete and unlikely to trap an animal. Unfortunately, the act of cutting is not enough. Fish and seabirds can’t tell the difference between uncut and cut plastic, and may continue to eat the plastic which can cause serious digestion problems and often death.
That’s why Saltwater Brewery put their marine life protection plan to action. “It’s a big investment for a small brewery created by fisherman, surfers and people who love the sea” Peter Agardy, head of brand at Saltwater Brewery, says in the below video. The innovative six-pack ring redesign is as efficient and durable as plastic, and even better—it prompts both manufacturers and consumers to consider the full life-cycle of the product they produce and consume. One major drawback is that the cost has spiked for now—that is until other manufacturers hop on board the environmental train. Saltwater Brewery’s goal is to inspire others in the beer industry to solve the plastic packaging problem, as We Believers creative chief officer Gustavo Lauria describes: “For brands to be successful today, it is no longer about being the best in the world. But rather, being the best for the world and take a real stance.”
Until a larger population of beer, soda pop, and other “plastic ring using” producers follow Saltwater Brewery’s bold lead, what can you as a consumer do to ensure that six-pack beverage rings do not end up in the oceans? Recycling should always be your number one go-to. According to the eco-friendly information database Earth911, beverage rings are made of Plastic #4 (LDPE) and can be recycled in local programs that accept low-density polyethylene resin. If your curbside recycling program is limited to plastics #1 and #2, or limits the types of LDPE accepted, Earth911 recommends starting a neighborhood collection to participate in the Hi-Cone Ring Leader Recycling Program. Hi-Cone’s Ringleader program will accept the six-pack rings in large quantities for recycling through various school programs, as well as through the mail. The company has worked with more than 12,000 schools and groups to collect and recycle the used rings. They have made it easier than ever to consciously dispose of potentially harmful materials, such as plastic—and no mealworms necessary.
Leaders of industrial activism, like Saltwater Brewery, show us that being environmental doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your favorite canned beverage. You just have to be smart about what you do next after you’ve sipped every last drop.