Turtle in a vast ocean

Three cheers to the edible six-pack rings helping clean up our oceans

Understandably, beer drinkers have had to make do with less pints down the pub lately, and more bottles and cans, enjoyed in the comfort of their own homes.

In 2018, the typical Brit was estimated to consume 73 litres of beer per year. That’s a lot of cans in total, and if you make a habit of buying them as a six-pack from your local shops, you could be having a significant impact on marine life without even realising it.

That’s because six-pack plastic rings can become a death trap for animals all over the world. National Geographic claims these items are just a fraction of the total of plastic waste which ends up in our seas and oceans, and yet it is often responsible for much of the harm done to marine life.

Breaking free of the plastic chain

Six-pack plastic rings have a tendency to get swept across the world’s oceans, trapping animals and injuring them. Sea & Straws tells the story of Peanut, a sea turtle which was trapped in a six-pack ring as a baby. Turtles have soft bodies at a young age, but as they grow older, their outer shells harden and remain solid for the rest of their lives.

Peanut’s six-pack ring caused significant deformities in her body, compressing parts of her shell where the plastic had wrapped around it, and ultimately caused under-development of internal organs. Unfortunately for Peanut, she was too weak to break free from the plastic, which can take up to 450 years to break down completely. Turtles can live long lifespans, but nowhere near long enough to outlive the plastic that chokes them in their marine environment.

The problem is that demand for plastic means these products are still being consumed and disposed of on a regular basis, meaning a lot more six-pack rings could litter our oceans for centuries to come.

A new hope for our oceans

Fortunately, we’re seeing manufacturers changing their ways. Saltwater Brewery, a Florida-based microbrewery, now sells six-packs of its beer products in ‘edible’ six-pack rings. Made from ribbons of wheat and barley ribbons, woven into a durable yet biodegradable material, the microbrewery’s products can be discarded and safely consumed by marine life.

As a result, these six-pack rings can give sea turtles a tasty meal, rather than a lifetime of pain. We don’t think twice about making our drinking cans out of easily-recyclable materials like aluminium, so why don’t more of our manufacturers take consideration to produce biodegradable packaging in this way?

The benefits would be incalculable over the long-term. What might seem like just a new way to enjoy a nice cold beer means less litter to pick up off our beaches. Less litter on our beaches reduces the amount of harmful material maiming marine life or being swallowed by them. Healthier marine ecosystems help to preserve the fragile natural balance in our oceans. Sinking a drink needn’t to mean sending marine life down a slippery slope from which they won’t return.

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