We have all seen those heartbreaking images of wildlife painfully stuck in six-pack rings — an item whose only function is to make it easier for us to transport cans around.
They get tangled in the wings of sea birds, warp the shells of sea turtles, and choke seals. Not to mention they are made of plastic and take hundreds of years to break down. Animals find it difficult to differentiate food from foe and will eat a floating six-pack ring — another way these objects can cause a slow and painful death.
Every year 18 billion pounds of plastic flow into the ocean disrupting the marine ecosystem and providing a deadly buffet to marine life.
One day, Chris Gove, Dustin Jeffers, Peter Agardy and Bo Eaton, the founders of Saltwater Brewery a microbrewery based in Florida’s Delray Beach, had enough.
The four Floridians, who each have a love for the ocean, were tired of seeing plastic polluting the seas and decided that they did not want to be part of the problem, but rather finders of a solution.
They realised that the waste byproduct of their brewing process could be used to create a biodegradable alternative to plastic six-pack rings.
“We grew up by the beach, and we’re on boats and surfing and fishing all the time. Sometimes you’d fish and you’d bring up a plastic bag on your hook. So our goal was to give back to the ocean, the environment, as much as possible, and using craft beer as the vessel to do it,” Dustin Jeffers, Head of Operations, told Freethink.
With the help of Entelequia, the leading biodegradables supplier in México, We Believers advertising house and a bunch of private investors in the brewing and packaging industries, E6PR was born in 2017 with its headquarters in Mexico.
E6PR is an acronym for Eco Six Pack Ring and they have created the world’s first eco-friendly six-pack rings made from by-product waste and other compostable materials.
The Eco Six Pack Rings are made using the spent grain from the brewing process and start to break down within two hours of being in the ocean and fully disintegrate in two to three months.
Even if rings end up on the beach or somewhere else they break down in a matter of weeks.
What’s more, as they are made from grain and all-natural materials, they can be eaten by a fish, turtles or birds without causing any harm.
“It’s not nutritious to them, it’s not going to be part of their diet. However, it’s a lot better eating that than plastic,” said Jeffers.
“I’ve eaten one and I’m still here.”
When the Saltwater Brewery team first stated their journey into environmental packaging solutions, they were surprised by the huge amount of interest the project attracted and soon realised that they would not be able to create the product in-house.
Thus they spun-off the idea to create E6PR.
Today, dozens of craft breweries around the world are using E6PR’s biodegradable rings.
Since the company was founded E6PR has racked up in an impressive amount of awards from environmental packaging and design to public relations.
And, this year, Corona Mexico became the first global beer brand to use the rings.
— E6PR (@E6PRs) March 7, 2019
As of last year, Saltwater Brewery eliminated plastic entirely from their packaging and they are hoping that their actions will influence the big dogs in the brewing business.
“Six-pack rings, of course, aren’t the number one pollutant, but our view on it is if we change one thing, even if it’s not the biggest problem, it gets people thinking,” says Jeffers.
“Beer is a good vessel, it gets people to listen.”
Sheikh Nawaf al-Saud al-Nasser al Sabah
Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber