Edible six pack ring prototype

If you’re a planet-defending beer enthusiast, you probably balk at the idea of the functional but frustrating plastic six-pack ring.

Like other wayward plastic litter, the ubiquitous frosty mug holder poses a distinct danger to wildlife — digestive blockage, entanglement, etc. Ever find yourself thinking, “Surely there’s a better way?” You’re not alone, believe us!

A better six-pack ring

An entrepreneurial team recently designed the planet-friendly six-pack ring alternative, which is:

  • edible
  • biodegradable
  • compostable

It’s touted as safer for animals and the environment. We’ll toast to that!

Recycled residue

During the R&D process, a team of experts from We Believers, a co-creation advertising firm based in New York, quickly ruled out using seaweed. Instead, the team opted to bring things full circle — recycling residue from the beer brewing process itself. About 80 percent of the formula is barley and wheat, says Marco Vega, co-founder and chief strategy officer of We Believers. He declined to reveal all the ingredients while the patent is pending, but said all items in the formula are edible.

Edible six pack ring prototype
Image credit: Saltwater Brewery

The product looks and behaves a bit like a stale waffle. Although “edible” is in the title, it’s not intended to be nutritious food, but rather safely digestible for wildlife. In the water, it would break apart in a few weeks, Vega says. With force, it likely would break apart sooner, so an entangled animal might be able to free itself.

If an edible six-pack ring package winds up in the ocean, “it’ll do way less or no damage to marine wildlife,” Vega says. Upon completing the prototype, the design team set out to find a “home” for the edible six-pack ring package.

It didn’t take long to find a partner.

Saltwater Brewery

When approached with the concept, Florida-based Saltwater Brewery ate up the idea. (Get it? Ate up. Edible.)

“We all just said, ‘Yep, absolutely.’ We just loved it for what it was and we were excited,” said brewery president Chris Gove. “We always believed in giving back to the ocean.”

Edible six pack ring prototype
Saltwater Brewery jumped at the opportunity to be part of the edible six-pack ring prototype. Image credit: Saltwater Brewery

Breweries from across the globe have expressed interest as well as news spreads about the the project. Vega thinks the idea may be extended to other types of packaging and become an industry standard.

“The conversation around sustainable package will never be the same. It can be done,” Vega says. “I think it just sets the bar really high, but reachable. We can get plastic out of the oceans.”

Sixpence none the richer

Vega said the team is working to launch its edible six-pack rings in November. If there is any extra expense to the consumer, he estimates it to be about a quarter per six-pack.

Turtle power

Representatives of several animal rescue organizations, who weren’t directly familiar with the project, said an alternative to the plastic six-pack ring is a step in the right direction.

“Anything we produce (even a portion) goes into our sea. It is an extreme hazard for many species of marine life,” says Robert Sarnie, director of marine operations for Global Preservation Project, which includes SeaTurtleRescue.

Turtle entangled in a plastic six pack ring
Image credit: Nomoretrash

Some sea turtles are attracted to plastic debris because it resembles jellyfish. A non-plastic alternative would be valuable if turtles and other sea life ignored it, or if it was safely digestible. “If they’re able to eat it without any repercussions and it no longer becomes a hazard, I’m all for it,” Sarnie says.

Alastair Harborne, assistant professor of marine biology at Florida International University, is in favor of innovations and practices that reduce or eliminate potentially destructive plastic pollution. “It’s a relatively easy thing for us to do something about,” he said.

What are your thoughts on this six-pack ring innovation? Would you pay a premium knowing it’s safer for marine wildlife? Share your thoughts in the comments section below! 

By Patti Roth

Patti began her writing career as a staff writer for the South Florida Sun Sentinel. Still based in Florida, Patti serves as editor for Fort Lauderdale on the Cheap. She regularly writes about environmental, home improvement, education, recycling, art, architecture, wildlife, travel and pet topics.