Florida-based company SaltWater Brewery is working on bringing completely edible and biodegradable six-pack rings onto the market. When made from plastic - as they typically are - these rings can have disastrous consequences for marine life, leading to strangulation, entanglement and impaction, all of which often lead to death.
"It has been an extremely exciting process," said Marco Vega, chief strategy officer and co-founder of We Believers, the advertising agency working together with SaltWater Brewery to bring the idea to life.
The unique six-pack rings are made from barley and wheat, both of which are by-products of beer production. Not only are these rings designed to eliminate the waste of the brewing process, they can also be safely consumed by marine life including fish and turtles.
"It's 100 percent natural and biodegradable, and we are also using materials that are ultimately edible and safe for wildlife to ingest and digest," Vega said.
The announcement comes shortly after a humpback whale off the Massachusetts coast was entangled in rope and fishing line so severely that its tissue had grown around them, making removal impossible without killing the animal.
"Full credit to them for thinking outside the square at what they can do to stop plastic use," said Jennie Gilbert, co-founder of Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre. However, she added that since wheat and barley are not typically components of marine animal diets, research should be conducted into the effects of their ingestion in the long term.
"Obviously it's better than plastic, there's no doubt about that," she said "But does it cause a long-term effect if they ingest it, does it cause problems? We don't know that."
As of now, each ring is estimated to cost between 10 and 15 U.S. cents, and the team hopes that big beer companies will eventually integrate the unique technology into their production process. They're also confident that knowing the benefits for marine life, consumers will happily pay for it.
"We decided to tackle the issue head on and make a statement for the whole beer industry to follow," Vega said.
"It is no longer about being the best in the world, but rather, being the best for the world and take a real stance," added Gustavo Lauria, chief creative officer and co-founder of We Believers.