Fancy a beer? If you’re picking up a six-pack, stop and look at the packaging.

About 100,000 marine creatures die every year after becoming entangled in ocean plastic waste, according to the WWF. The plastic hoops that bind drinks packs are sometimes to blame.

Image: Greenpeace/Rainer Borcherding

But the good news is that there are now alternatives.

Barcelona-based global brewer Estrella Damm is testing 100% biodegradable natural-fibre cardboard six-pack holders. If successful, it plans to use them in the 85 countries in which it operates, eliminating 89 million plastic pack rings.

Image: Estrella Damm

Saving life in the oceans

The company says the new packaging will cut its plastic waste by more than 260 tonnes a year. And it’s not alone in trying to find a solution to the problem.

Last year, Carlsberg announced it would glue its multipacks together to cut the amount of plastic each uses by more than 75%. And in the US, Florida’s Saltwater Brewery is using biodegradable Eco Six Pack Rings made from brewing byproducts. The company that makes them says the material is harmless if it ends up in the stomachs of wildlife.

Mexican beer brand Corona is also using Eco Six Pack Rings. And global drinks group AB InBev says it’s aiming for all of its packaging to be returnable or made from a majority of recycled content within five years.

Plastic

What is the World Economic Forum doing about plastic pollution?

More than 90% of plastic is never recycled, and a whopping 8 million metric tons of plastic waste are dumped into the oceans annually. At this rate, there will be more plastic than fish in the world’s oceans by 2050.

The Global Plastic Action Partnership (GPAP) is a collaboration between businesses, international donors, national and local governments, community groups and world-class experts seeking meaningful actions to beat plastic pollution.

It aims to show how businesses, communities and governments can redesign the global “take-make-dispose” economy as a circular one in which products and materials are redesigned, recovered and reused to reduce environmental impacts.

Urgent action

The World Economic Forum report The New Plastics Economy says at least 8 million tonnes of plastic enter the ocean every year. Unless urgent collective action is taken, by 2050 there will be, by weight, more plastic than fish in the sea.

Image: World Economic Forum

Most plastic packaging is only used once, according to the Forum report; 95% of the value of plastic packaging material, worth $80 billion-$120 billion annually, is lost to the economy after a short first use cycle.