New edible six-pack rings made from beer by-products

By Shannon Verhagen 23 May 2016
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How one brewery is hoping to save marine life with a game-changing invention, just in time for World Turtle Day.

A SMALL AMERICAN brewery is gaining international attention after an online video revealing its concept of 100 per cent biodegradable and edible six-pack rings went viral.

Generally made from plastic, six-pack rings have huge implications on marine life when they enter the environment  – causing strangulation, entanglement and impaction (a build-up of plastic in the gut), often resulting in death.

RELATED: Pulling the plug on plastic

With a passion for conservation and primary market of surfers, fishermen and people who love the sea, Florida’s SaltWater Brewery – together with advertising agency We Believers – began working on an environmentally friendly alternative.

The result? Edible Six Pack Rings.

“It has been an extremely exciting process,” Marco Vega, chief strategy officer and co-founder of We Believers, says.

Turtle six pack ring

Plastic six-pack rings can cause havoc in the environment and for marine animals such as turtles. (Image courtesy We Believers)

The video – first posted on 12 May – has now been shared thousands of times, and viewed by millions.

Made from barley and wheat – by-products of the beer-making process – their production not only aims for zero waste, but upon entering the ecosystem, the rings break down, and are able to be ingested by marine animals such as fish and turtles.

 “It’s 100 per cent natural and biodegradable and we are also using materials that are ultimately edible and safe for wildlife to ingest and digest,” Marco says.

Natural diet? More research needed

Jennie Gilbert, co-founder of Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre, sees the impacts plastic ingestion and entanglement have on marine life first-hand, and applauds their efforts.

“Full credit to them for thinking outside the square at what they can do to stop plastic use,” she says.

Turtle six pack ring

The product is made from wheat and barley, both by-products of the beer making process. (Image courtesy We Believers)

However, with wheat and barley not natural components in the diet of marine animals, Jennie says research needs to be undertaken to determine the long-term effects of the edible packaging’s ingestion.

“Obviously it’s better than plastic, there’s no doubt about that,” she says. “But does it cause a long-term effect if they ingest it, does it cause problems? We don’t know that.”

Small price to save our marine life

The companies have now begun manufacturing a mold which will allow 400,000 of the Edible Six Pack Rings to be produced per month – enough to package every can produced by the brewery.

Each ring is estimated to cost between 10 and 15 US cents – a price Marco believes consumers are more than willing to pay, knowing it can save the lives of marine animals.

And with hope that big beer companies will implement the technology, Marco says the manufacturing cost will drop even lower, providing a competitive option to the current plastic solution.

“We decided to tackle the issue head on and make a statement for the whole beer industry to follow,” Marco says.

And Gustavo Lauria, chief creative officer and co-founder of We Believers, agrees.

“It is no longer about being the best in the world, but rather, being the best for the world and take a real stance,” he says.