When we think of deadly objects, we imagine things like nooses, knives, and guns, right? No one ever thinks of six-pack rings or other types of plastic trash. Yet pollution kills a tragic amount of animals per year – estimates place that figure anywhere from the hundred thousands to the millions. “We have this silent epidemic in terrestrial and marine wildlife, and this stuff doesn’t just go away,” says Robbie Fearn, director of the Human Society’s Cape Wildlife Center.
Enter Saltwater Brewery, who partnered with ad agency We Believers to make beer packaging that is not only biodegradable, but is also completely edible just in case an animal does feast on it (current plastic rings are degradable, but can take up to 90 days to break apart which means they can still harm animals). The six-pack casing is made entirely from wheat and barley left over from brewing, which also puts their waste to good use. They were able to accomplish this feat thanks to 3D printing. Although the new packaging was more expensive than basic plastic packaging, it sets an important example: sometimes the cheapest option is not the best or safest and companies just have to swallow the cost in order to appeal to a savvy customer base.
But the real solution we will eventually need to face is how much our world depends on and overuses plastics, which tend to end up in the stomachs of sea animals. While biodegradable six-pack rings are a temporary fix, it’s also time to address the root of the problem. After all, what good are biodegradable six-packs if they’re being bought and placed into a plastic grocery bag? So next time you see someone using a plastic bag at Trader Joe’s, just do them a favor and buy them a re-usable cloth bag.