Peanut the turtle is so-named for the permanently cinched waist she developed growing up belted by a plastic six-pack holder — her shell took on the shape of a peanut, and is a constant reminder of how garbage can wreak havoc on sea life. One beer company, Saltwater Brewery in Florida, devised an ingenious workaround to cut down on plastic pollution and the toll it takes on marine animals: edible six-pack rings ocean animals can eat, risk-free.
Made from biodegradable, edible byproducts of the brewing process, the compostable rings are strong enough to hold the beer and safe for animal consumption, if and when they end up in waterways. They're pricier to produce, according to a Saltwater video, but if the model catches on with mainstream manufacturers, the brewers predict cost would fall.
"We want to influence the big guys and ... inspire them to get on board," said Chris Grove, Saltwater's president.
In 2010, 4 million metric tons to 12 million metric tons of plastic washed onto the world's shores, a small fraction of the ocean's sum total. Apart from getting caught in plastic, many marine animals are eating it. Sea turtles in particular tend to favor clear, maleable plastics that float near the ocean's surface. But plastic isn't ingestible; it's killing albatross, whales and dolphins — all manner of marine life.
The company hopes its edible rings, made from barley and wheat leftovers, will resonate with its target audience: "surfers, fishermen and people who love the sea." And with so many dolphin lovers out there, their innovative rings just might catch on.