Grabbing a six-pack or two to enjoy at the beach or while boating is one of the pleasures South Floridians can enjoy year-round. The flip side of cracking open a cold one is that the plastic packaging rings used to hold your beers together can harm wildlife and choke seabirds. Introduced in the 1960s, the rings started finding their way into the planet's oceans where seabirds, fish, and turtles either ate the rings or got trapped in them. In 1984, the New York Times reported that one million to two million seabirds and more than 100,000 sea mammals die each year after being entrapped in rings, nets, and other fishing gear.
Saltwater Brewery in Delray Beach is changing how it manufactures six-pack packaging rings to make them more eco-friendly. These new rings are constructed from barley and wheat ribbons saved from the brewing process. These 100 percent biodegradable and edible rings, known as E6PR, can be safely eaten by animals that come in contact with them.
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Plastic in our planet's waterways is a real problem. Mark Benfield, an LSU oceanographer, led a recent survey that revealed microplastic concentrations on the inner shelf of the Gulf of Mexico rival the highest levels reported globally. Each net dipped into the Gulf by LSU researchers came up filled with plastic. A volunteer beach cleanup three miles off Elmer's Island back in 2017 gathered more than 170 plastic six-pack rings, along with 4,000 pounds of other trash. The new biodegradable rings are a step in the right direction, according to Saltwater Brewery president Chris Gove. “We hope to influence the big guys and hopefully inspire them to get onboard.”
The brewery has long supported ocean-friendly charities and organizations like the Surfrider Foundation, the Ocean Foundation, Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium, and the Billfish Foundation through benefits held in its tasting room, and through beer and merchandise donations, beach cleanups, and other forms of community involvement. Peter Agardy, head of branding at Saltwater Brewery, says, “It’s a big investment for a small brewery created by fishermen, surfers, and people that love the sea.”
The E6PR can be found on the brewery's Screamin’ Reels IPA. It's available to purchase in the tasting room and in select South Florida stores such as Publix, Total Wine & More, Whole Foods Market, Lucky's Market, and ABC Fine Wine & Spirits.
Saltwater Brewery. 1701 W. Atlantic Ave., Delray Beach; 561-865-5373. saltwaterbrewery.com