A US craft brewer is attempting to reverse the damage caused by a form of packaging that will be familiar to canned-beer drinkers around the world: the six-pack plastic rings that hold them together, the vast majority of which find their way into oceans ensnaring and poisoning marine life.
100% biodegradable and sustainable, the replacement for the plastic rings that have been unchanged for decades – but which have caused early deaths to an estimated one million seabirds a year – have been created by Saltwater Brewery and are reported to be the first mass-produced product of their kind. Called E6PR, the Florida brewer began working on its can holder in 2016, picking up the Fast Company World Changing Ideas Award a year later.
SaltWater Brewery produces the E6PR can holders with the very products that go into the production of the beer itself, using by-product barley and wheat to recreate a rigid, 100% biodegradable can holder that breaks down in water. Also, owing to its plant-based construction, E6PR (@E6PRs) can even be eaten by the marine life that up to now have been so badly affected by the plastic alternative.
According to @SaltWaterBrewer, Americans drink around 6.3bn gallons of beer in 2017, with 50% of that drunk from cans. The East Coast-brewer said it had spent its resources on making the bio-based packaging in an attempt to do their bit for the environment and also appeal more to its surfers, fishermen and sea-loving target market.
“Being 100% biodegradable and edible it has to be strong enough to hold the weight and the typical handling of the cans,” said Francisco García, COO at SaltWater Brewery.
As resistant and efficient as the plastic six-pack rings are, SaltWater Brewery is open about the fact that E6PR can’t yet compete with its plastic alternative in terms of cost, but was clear that if it is more widely adopted by fellow craft brewers will drive down the price. The brewer has certainly gained the world’s attention and has already received 165 million views on social media, as well as shared 2.8 million times. It has invested $0 thus far, but despite this is soon to enter mass production… who knows, when they do maybe the sale of the can holders will outstrip sales of the beer itself?
Download: The Bio-Based World Quarterly issue #9.