Every year, countless plastic six-pack rings end up in the ocean, wrapped around defenseless sea creatures, such as seals, turtles and seagulls, choking them to death. According to marine biologist Mark Tokulka, “Around the world, an estimated 1 million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals and sea turtles become entrapped in plastic or ingest it and die.”
Now, however, an eco-friendly Florida brewery has come up with a solution to preserve our oceans and its inhabitants: biodegradable rings that also serve as food for wildlife. The rings, made from wheat and barley, were developed by E6PR, a tech start-up, in association with Saltwater Brewery, a craft microbrewery in Delray Beach. Though the manufacturing process is a bit expensive, E6PR is hoping new customers will help lower production costs. As of now, the start-up is testing the rings with "a select group of craft breweries," yet they are still waiting for widespread interest.
According to a study by Louisiana State University, plastic pollution has significantly impacted the Gulf of Mexico, which has one of the world's highest concentrations of plastic in its waters. Most of the plastic comes from the Mississippi River.
"We found it every time," LSU's Mark Benfield said after repeatedly sampling ocean water from the Gulf.
Eighty percent of the plastic that ends up in the ocean comes from activities on land, according to the National Geographic. The plastic is usually blown from streets and landfills into sewers, waterways and the ocean. A Plymouth University study revealed that plastic pollution affects more than 700 marine species.
Last year, a volunteer cleanup crew collected 4,000 pounds of trash and 170 plastic six-pack rings on only three miles of Elmer's Island in Louisiana. The three-hour cleanup, hosted by the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program along with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and Nicholls State University, was organized by the Ocean Conservancy during International Coastal Cleanup and National Estuaries Week.
On June 8, Saltwater Brewery will celebrate World Oceans Day with giveaways, raffles and an educational program provided by 4Ocean, the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center, Debris Free Oceans and Slow Food International. They will also show the award-winning documentary, The Smog of the Sea and feature a vegan food truck, which uses only biodegradable plates and utensils made from recycled materials.
In order to combat ocean pollution, people are encouraged to limit their plastic consumption, recycle and reuse plastic products. This includes avoiding straws, buying in bulk and bringing reusable bags to the supermarket.