Feeding Critters, Not Killing Them

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Big Problem, Cunning Small Solution Dept: With our oceans fouled by an estimated 8 million metric tons of plastic - much of it those pesky deadly six-pack rings from the astounding 6.3 billion gallons of beer, about half in cans,  Americans drink each year - a Florida craft brewery has created rings that can double as lunch for any marine animals who come upon them. Saltwater Brewery in Delray Beach, which describes itself as "a small  brewery created by fisherman, surfers and people that love the sea,” has started making the rings from barley and wheat ribbons from the brewing process. They are 100% biodegradable, compostable, edible by fish or human alike, and as tough as plastic.

Experts say plastic is one of the most common trash items afflicting marine animals, with six-pack rings killing up to a million sea birds and 100,000 sea turtles and other creatures a year. The rings end up in the ocean by circuitous routes, from littering to getting blown from dumps or trashcans to drifting to sea from storm drains. After years of harrowing photos of birds or seals strangled by six-pack rings, some people began cutting them in case they landed in the ocean; then photos started circulating of dead creatures, their stomachs bloated with plastic they'd ingested. Saltwater's brilliant rings, created in conjunction with We Believers advertising company, pose none of those dangers. For now, alas, they're slightly more pricey than plastic; the company is hopeful bigger breweries will get on board and they'll get cheaper. Either way, it's a small price to pay to have your beer and the planet too.

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