Big Problem, Cunning Small Solution Dept: With our oceans fouled by an estimated 8 million metric tons of plastic - much of it pesky, deadly six-pack rings from the 6.3 billion gallons of beer America drinks each year - a Florida craft brewery has created 100% biodegradable rings from recycled barley and wheat that can double as lunch for any marine animals who come upon them. Brilliant.
Plato said, “He is a wise man who invented beer.”
This brewery just took it to the next level. Well done, Saltwater Brewery!
Biodegradable plastic is great, but at the same time, would this not encourage marine life to eat the conventional plastic in the water as well?
I don’t know, the material itself is so different in appearance from conventional plastic rings, i doubt it would have an effect of making the plastic appear even more palatable than it already appears. what we need is to mandate this sort of material be used by all.
Once again we need only apply our creative genius to the things that need changing. What else can be made of this substance? They have invented a transparent wood which probably could replace cellophane wrap. We use so much plastic because we don’t have the alternatives available as much as people think. Make using plastic more expensive than using recyclable materials (like it should be if the price of disposal were factored in) or add a carbon tax and suddenly people will use a lot less plastic. For example those styrofoam packaging ‘peanuts’ could be made of papier-mâché instead of plastic. People need to cause change for the environment at the corporate level. It isnt that people need to choose to use less plastic (they should though) but it is more important that corporations choose to use less plastic and that plastic be less easy to use when better substitutes are available.
This ‘invention’ is humanity making the Anthropocene less destructive. We can have more - the plants and animals - in this world besides just us. We are able to do that without sacrificing the technology etc. instead of making billions of useless plastic six pack holders and countless other things of destructive plastic make them useful but still harmless instead. You’d still have the six pack holders but they wouldn’t be bad for other living things or us!
Pass me a beer would’ya?
I went to the beer company site.
Neither the beer company or CommonDreams provide an independent lab report to tell us how long one of these edible rings take to decompose. Did I miss this number?
Will a trapped animal live long enough to escape a decomposed plastic six pack holder?
But, on the other hand, these micro-and-nano breweries are increasingly packaging their beer in aluminum cans instead of bottles - claiming it is “greener” because most aluminum cans get recycled to make more aluminum cans - but then they label the can with a PETE plastic shrink-on sleeve which totally screws up the recyclability of the can unless the drinker cuts the label away with a knife before putting the can in the recycle bin (I am one of the 0.0001% beer drinkers who does this).
I see this sort of stuff again and again - supposedly green companies claiming their food packaging is recyclable, but in reality is it not recyclable at all because they either carelessly or cluelessly apply a fancy metallized plastic or paper label with impossible-to-remove glue on what would otherwise be a recyclable glass/plastic/metal container. In particular, this is what renders most glass-containers non-recyclable. This, along with the current practice of non-sorting of recyclables renders recycling pretty much bullshit. The reality is that most of the mixed-recyclable stuff you put place at the curb in your blue bin gets the usable metals removed from it then the rest goes to a landfill, or shipped to a third-world country, where people extract the usable resources under terrible labor conditions.
The only true recycling is the practically extinct-in-the-USA refillable deposit bottle (one small old standard mill-hunk-swill brewery - Stoney’s - still does this in my area). If the micro-nano breweries want to be green they should do this - with the prices they charge for these snob-appeal beers, they certainly should be able to afford it. But for now, growlers are the best way to go.
The most common packing peanuts I see these days are made from a corn starch substance which dissolve in water. I’ve even disposed of them by throwing them out in the garden before a rain.
Good but you know the ones I meant. They are only an example of unnecessary use of plastic simply because it is cheap and easy.
By getting rid of the plastic rings entirely then only the edible rings would be floating around.
Absolutely right there should. There should a write in campaign to the beverage companies expressing a determination to stop buying products that use the old style plastic rings. However this is an example of how we don’t have to change the way we live ( some people keep saying we have to deindustrialize like that would be possible even) just do what we do but in a less environmentally destructive way instead. I have no problem with biodegradable and maybe even edible substitutes for plastic. Everything should stay the same except the hazards of plastic rings would be gone and sea turtles would be the beneficiaries. Cool with me.
Btw… Once tuna companies caught on that people would prefer to buy tuna that was dolphin safe and posted that on the cans until a trade deal case forced companies that caught tuna that was dolphin safe to stop saying so because it was unfair to companies that still caught tuna the old way that killed Dolphins.
Imagine a company that used a trade deal to try and prevent substituting for plastic!
Freakin brilliant! Now if these items can be made to replace the plastic garbage killers! So much could be done, if only money didn’t get in the way…
“We are the most dangerous species of life on the planet, and every other species, even the earth itself, has cause to fear our power to exterminate. But we are also the only species which, when it chooses to do so, will go to great effort to save what it might destroy.” - Wallace Stegner
I immediately thought the same thing: great minds huh…lol. It is an interesting idea and like everything else its probably not so straight forward. As it is, the plastic rings are a near death sentence for any critter that gets caught up in it, so there is not much opportunity to refine behavior through trial and error. Now If we were able to rely on a tremendous learning curve from marine life the regular plastic would not be much of a problem would it: they could see the detrimental effect these plastics play on the lives of their peers who get tangled up and a tradition of practice could be developed based on this knowledge (not a very likely scenario). But that’s besides the point as you are talking about positive reinforcement, that might lead to the individual seeking out devastating food sources such as actual plastic ring that look similar to benign food-source mock-plastic rings. Now it’s certainly possible that an individual marine animal could learn through the course of its life that these rings are delicious and an safe and therefore seek them out. But will they mistake them for real plastic rings, and thus suffer the consequences? Another commentator said they look different, but more importantly they smell different. I’m not an expert here, but my limited research into this suggests most marine life depends on smell to track down food. Thus the use of these biodegradable rings could only help. Now, if marine life were more dependent on sight for feeding, these rings could be problematic, but the universal implementation of them would still be a direct benefit: as each real plastic ring has a lifespan (mechanical deterioration of plastics in the ocean) and the supply of dangerous plastic rings would eventually diminish, and be replaced, with what we assume based off this article, to be safe biodegradable rings (which would benefit from some qualification: how safe are they?)