Once you’ve seen a photo of a hapless sea turtle whose shell has been deformed by a girdling plastic six-pack can holder, you can never un-see it. A turtle dubbed Peanut was portrayed after being trapped in an inescapable six-pack ring as a youngster. Her body continued to grow around the artificial restraint which constricted the middle of her shell and prevented it from developing normally.
The deformation caused by the unyielding plastic trash caused some of the turtle’s organs not to develop completely. Found by accident in 1993 in Missouri, Peanut was moved to a St. Louis zoo where veterinarians removed the plastic six-pack ring. The Missouri Department of Conservation continues to care for the sea turtle who is able to roam about freely now – albeit slowly.
To the rescue of more Peanuts (and their male mates) are Eco Six Pack Rings (E6PR) which will not only biodegrade to free a trapped animal but are also non-toxic if swallowed.
E6PR was founded to find a way to eliminate plastic from the global landscape – and seascape in 2017 by three groups:
- We Believers, a co-creation advertising house dedicated to impactful collaboration and breakthrough creative work
- Entelequia, a leading biodegradables supplier in Mexico
- Private investors in the beverage packaging industry
Creative minds and inventive engineers worked together to “resolve the impact of the infamous plastic six pack rings,” by “offering a package solution.”
The E6PR™ “is the first ecofriendly six pack ring made from by-product waste and other compostable materials, designed to replace the plastic rings, which are truly damaging to our environment.”
These ingenious package rings biodegrade in a matter of days when composted but will also degrade in a matter of weeks when left exposed to the elements on open land or in a water system:
“When disposed [of] properly the E6PR™ finds its way to a compostable facility, or to the contrary, when disposed improperly and thrown into open land or a water system, the product will degrade in less than 200 days (depending [on] the ecosystem).”
The compostable organic materials used to make the E6PRs is completely harmless to wildlife. The rings are manufactured from the by-product ingredients of the brewing process: malt, barley, and wheat. Toxicity tests performed on the rings found no pesticides or volatile substances and fewer heavy metals than in milk.
Francisco Garcia, Chief Engineer with Entelequia, talked about the challenge of combining strength, rapid decomposition, and animal safety:
“Besides being 100 percent biodegradable, compostable and edible, they have to be strong enough to hold the weight and difficulty handling of the cans.”
That said, the rings are neither intended nor recommended for human or animal consumption as they may have become contaminated by environmental pollutants after manufacturing and sale.
The eco six-pack rings, which were subjected to jolt tests by machines that hold and shake the cans programmatically, perform as well as plastic in hard and wet conditions.
Saltwater Brewery, a craft microbrewery based in Delray Beach, on the southeastern Atlantic side of Florida, teamed up with E6PR to develop the rings. Now, the partners are looking for a limited group of craft breweries to roll out the first orders for the eco-friendly six-pack holders.
Think of all the ways such a plastic substitute could help preserve animals, including many endangered species, by protecting them from death by ingesting plastic. On April 23, 2019, a young dolphin was found, emaciated and in poor health, stranded on a Fort Myers Beach. The female dolphin was put to death humanely two days later and the subsequent necropsy revealed trash (a piece of a balloon and two plastic bags) in its stomach.
While marine biologists couldn’t say for sure that the plastics killed the dolphin, it is a fair certainty the plastic trash wasn’t contributing to the animal’s robust good health.
Marine trash is a growing problem around the world. The Ocean Conservancy estimates that 8 million tons of plastics enter the oceans annually and add to the 150 million tons currently floating in our marine environments.
Due to the high costs of product development and initial marketing, distributors of the eco-friendly rings must pay a bit more – and do, according to Peter Agardy, the head of brand at Saltwater Brewery who said:
“It’s a big investment for a small brewery.”
So far, the biodegradable six-pack rings are available in South Florida stores such as Publix, Total Wine, Whole Foods Market, Lucky’s Market, and ABC Fine Wine and Spirits.
Chris Gove, president of Saltwater Brewery, admitted the corporate goal is to inspire major manufacturers to back their new product. Persuading them to join forces to increase production would lower the cost of the new animal-friendly invention for everyone.