In a move to protect marine wildlife and reduce the growing problem of ocean plastic pollution, a US company has created edible beer pack rings made of wheat and barley waste that are biodegradable and sea creatures can consume.
What is a biodegradable product? It is one that is capable of being decomposed by bacteria or other living organisms and therefore does not pollute.
Saltwater Brewery co-founder, Chris Gove, explained that instead of harming wildlife, his company’s packing design will provide marine and land animals with food. Saltwater Brewery is a craft microbrewery based at Delray Beach in Florida, USA.
— We Believers (@webelieversnow) 23 May 2016
Repurposing waste from beer brewing process
The rings are made from natural byproducts of the beer-making process. Saltwater says the new product is a very pragmatic and effective solution to repurposing waste in the brewing industry.
The biodegradable beer pack rings start disintegrating within two hours of being in the sea. This means that not only do they not pollute our oceans, but also that marine wildlife such as fishes do not get stuck in the rings.
Within two to three months, the rings have completely disappeared in the ocean. If they are left on the beach, they turn into compost also within three months – sooner if the humidity and temperatures are high.
There are other alternatives to plastic rings on the market, such as Fishbone’s cardboard holder and PekTech’s recycled plastic can carrier. However, unlike this new plastic ring, they do not prevent wildlife from getting stuck or ingesting the product.
Quest for a sustainable and sturdy material
Mr. Gove got together with Marco Vega, co-founder of We Believers, an advertising agency, to find a new material that could be sturdy and sustainable enough to hold a six-pack, while at the same time being biodegradable and harmless to marine wildlife.
The rings completely disintegrate in the sea and do not pollute – marine life can eat them. (Image: Seawater Brewery)
Mr. Vega said:
“Our main challenge was figuring out what material would be sustainable and sturdy enough to hold a six pack of beer. Initially we wanted to make the rings from seaweed, but it’s too fragile and rigid to use once taken from the ocean.”
3D-printed plastic moulds were used to produce the first batch of five-hundred edible six-pack rings.
According to Saltwater, they are not suitable for mass production. The company is developing metal moulds with a capacity of manufacturing 400,000 ring units each month.
Mr. Vega said:
“We estimate the initial mass-produced batch will cost around 25 cents (17pence) per unit– about 10 cents more than over the recyclable plastic six-pack rings Saltwater is [currently] using.”
Mr. Gove and Mr. Vega believe that people will be willing to pay more for the new beer rings. However, if the material catches on and production increases, the cost per unit should decline significantly.
Mr. Vega added:
“If most craft brewers and big beer companies implement this technology, the manufacturing cost will drop and be very competitive.”
The beer pack rings are made of a material that is already there – waste wheat and barley byproducts from the beer-making process. (Image: facebook.com/SaltWaterBrewery)
Salwater Brewery made the following statement on Facebook:
“Most plastic beer six‐pack rings end up in our oceans and pose a serious threat to wildlife. Together with We Believers, we ideated, designed, tested and prototyped the first ever Edible Six Pack Rings.”
“A six‐pack packaging, made with byproducts of the beer making process, that instead of killing animals, feeds them. They are also 100% biodegradable and compostable. We hope the big guys follow.”
Salwater Brewery believes in using a sustainable approach to brewing beer. All of its spent grain is used to feed local cattle, i.e. within a radius of 30 miles.
Video – Saltwater Brewery Edible Six Pack Rings
Most plastic beer pack rings end up in the sea and pose a serious threat to marine wildlife. Saltwater Brewery and We Believers got together to create a new beer pack ring made of a completely biodegradable material.