Are Edible Pack Bindings the Solution?
In 2016 the British population drank an average of 15,000 pints of beer every minute.
Meanwhile in 2015, 63 billion gallons of beer was consumed in the USA, 50% of which was from a can.
Whilst these statistics may have the beer companies and brewers smiling with glee, these are not good figures, for our collective health and certainly not for the environment.
Mark Tokulka; a marine biologist has stated that most of the 6 pack bindings from each pack of beer ends up in the oceans, killing 1 million sea birds and injuring or trapping 100,000 marine mammals and sea turtles each year.
An Effective ‘Edible’ Solution
The obvious solution to this would be to not disregard the bindings in the first place; cut them up and put them in waste bins. However as simple as this is, it’s a solution that seems to bypass large sections of the population.
But a more effective solution could be close at hand. Saltwater Brewery, a small microbrewery in Florida have devised edible 6 pack bindings.
The bindings are made from the remnants of the brewing process (wheat and barley) which are 100% biodegradable, compostable and edible.
The bindings start to break down in oceans within a couple of hours with complete disintegration occurring within 2-3 months; thus preventing fish/marine mammals and birds becoming trapped and injured.
Currently edible bindings are more expensive to produce than their recyclable counterparts by 10 cents; an estimated initial mass production cost of 25 cents (17p). However, this manufacturing cost would become more competitive the more brewers and beer companies implement the technology. It has yet to be seen how popular this will be with large scale brewers, but in the 1st year of production more than 50 craft brewers expressed their interest in the edible 6 pack bindings. A good start!
Concerns Raised by Inorganic Elements
Whilst this may seem like a great idea, there have been some concerns raised by some groups as to the unknown effects on marine life from ingesting wheat and barley by products, as they are not a part of their natural diet. This side of the innovation will require more research before concerns can be completely sated.
Don Loepp; Plastic News Editor has been looking into this story as he read the initial reports and was sceptical. He consulted with Ramani Narayan; a professor of chemical and biochemical engineering at Michigan State University to see how good this product actually is.
Ramani has stated that “during the fermentation process he would expect the wheat and barley residues to be composed of lignin and ash and even cellulose; to a smaller extent. These residues have high silicon contents as well as elements such as potassium, phosphorus, calcium and chlorine”.
The concerns here relate to the influx of these inorganic elements into the marine food chain and eventually to the human food chain.
Ramani has stated he tried to schedule an interview to obtain more information on the product/process from the manufacturer, Entelequia Sustainable Development but unfortunately he received no response.
So, this solution may have its unknown side effects but could this be the answer to reducing impacts of such waste on ocean life? With ever increasing societal pressures on businesses to be more environmentally friendly hopefully there will be more innovative companies doing their part to reduce human impact on our environment and ensuring its sustainability for future generations.
This may be one small step by one small company but as the famous quote goes: “It’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind”.