Food & Drink

Could this beer’s six-pack rings help save sea turtles?

The biodegradable six-pack ring Saltwater innovated also can be safely eaten by fish and other sea animals.
The biodegradable six-pack ring Saltwater innovated also can be safely eaten by fish and other sea animals. Handout

Delray Beach’s Saltwater Brewery wanted to do more than brew beer.

From the beginning, the company — founded by local fisherman, surfers and ocean lovers — wanted their brewery to reflect the sustainable and environmentally friendly practices they believed in. So they started donating the spent grains used in their brewing to local farms less than 30 miles away to feed cattle.

But it gave them another idea for how to pay it forward to the planet.

Recently, Saltwater was thrust into the spotlight when the company revealed its idea for biodegradable six-pack rings that are also edible for sealife. The rings, co-created with New York advertising agency We Believers, are a revolutionary way to reduce plastic waste and feed the oceans in the process.

“The ocean has been our jewel, so we’ve always wanted to give back to it,” Saltwater co-founder Chris Gove said.

Traditional plastic rings wreak havoc on the oceans. They choke sea turtles and entangle other sea animals.

But the new biodegradable rings are made out of spent wheat and barley from the beer recipe and take about three months to disintegrate completely, Gove said. They begin to break down within their first hour in the water.

The idea was sparked after a product photo shoot when We Believers founders Gustavo Lauría and Marco Vega noticed the amount of waste sitting in the garbage.

“When we started to really think about what [waste] meant, we ended up finding how big of a challenge it is for the marine environment,” Vega said. “That’s why we have an island ]of floating plastic] in the Pacific the size of Texas. ... We go on about our merry lives, but that is out there circling in the Pacific, and we have to do something about it.”

The prototype was created three months ago with an initial production of 400,000 units. Now they’re prepping for a second run. Both companies are expecting to launch into the market by early fall and say consumers will see about a 10- to 15-cent increase in the price of their beer. But they hope bigger breweries will take to the idea and push for a more competitive manufacturing rate.

Gove says since the news broke, they’ve been flooded with inquiries from other breweries, asking to partner up and use the biodegradable rings.

“There are over 50 breweries that have contacted us to participate already. The market’s there, the people love it, and it’s really a matter of figuring out the logistics,” Gove said.

Saltwater is eventually going to switch completely to the biodegradable rings as it expands the brewery in coming months.

“This signals how the creative community can come together to create a better world. Innovation starts with entrepreneurs,” Vega said. “Hopefully this serves as an inspiration for others to make things happen.”

Meanwhile, Saltwater continues find ways to blend their business with their passion for the sea. They regularly partner with local charities such as the Coastal Conservation Association of Florida, the Surfrider Foundation and the Ocean Foundation’s project to reestablish coastal seagrasses.They also organize local beach cleanups.

Preserving the ocean is at the heart of their ethos.

“I learned to crawl on sand,” said Gove, who grew up in Delray Beach. “The beach has just always been a part of my life.”

Follow @CportJournalist on Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat