Beer rings to feed the fish

August 1, 2017 - 12:00am -- Emilie Christy

Beer rings to feed the fish
Crispy spoons and six-pack rings go easier on nature

By Emilie Christy

About 40 billion plastic utensils are used and disposed of during the year in the United States, and multiply that by 16 times for the number used worldwide.

Another staggering fact, according to the Ocean Conservancy 2015 Ocean Trash Index, is the amount of garbage, over 16 million pounds, collected by volunteers along the coast that contains plastics of all varieties, including those rings that hold six-packs of beer and soda together.

Most end up in landfill sites and along the ocean floor, and become a significant cause of death for all types of marine life. According to a report published in the journal PNAS, researchers have also found that almost 90% of seabirds have eaten plastic and retain it in their gut. Many have died as a consequence.

Two companies, in particular, are trying to combat this phenomenon with new and innovative techniques by creating edible, biodegradable and compostable products to sustain and protect the environment.

Bakeys, a small startup company in India that ships worldwide, has developed cutlery made from sorghum flour, rice flour and wheat flour. They’re working on a product that can be certified gluten free, and tout their spoons as delicious — they go perfectly with ice cream, yogurt and a variety of soups.

The sorghum does not degrade in liquids and has a long shelf life, up to two years, while maintaining the spoon’s crispness. The company’s plans are to produce chopsticks, forks and eventually expand to cups, plates and other traditional tableware.

The Saltwater Brewery in Delray Beach, Florida has taken another approach to the plastic issue. They are creating beer rings made from by-products from the brewing process, primarily barley and wheat, which are completely safe for humans and fish to eat. The brewery is owned and operated by fishermen, surfers and people who love the sea and feel a great responsibility to help protect the marine life there for their pleasure and livelihood.

Their product is as durable as plastic, but is a bit more costly to produce. Their hope is that customers will be willing to pay a little more in order to help the environment and animal life. They also anticipate the cost will go down as usage increases and larger companies join the effort.