Two and a half years ago, a creative agency and a craft brewery issued a challenge to the beer world: If plastic six-pack rings can end up in the ocean and kill wildlife, why not shift to a different type of packaging? They proposed a new type of ring that would biodegrade if it reached the water–and that could even be safely eaten if a turtle or fish mistakes it for food.
Corona will now be the first global beer brand to pilot the new plastic-free rings, beginning in small tests in Mexico and the U.K. next year. “We’re at that moment in time when the consumer is ready, and you have the writing on the wall that you have to do away with plastic,” says Marco Vega, cofounder of We Believers, the creative agency that spun out a startup called E6PR (“eco six-pack ring”) to produce the new product. “I think Corona saw that.”
The pilot is part of Corona’s partnership with the nonprofit Parley for the Oceans, and a commitment to address the problem of more than 8 million metric tons of plastic waste entering the ocean each year. The company has conducted beach cleanups for more than a decade, but realized that it needed to tackle waste at an earlier stage through better design.
Saltwater Brewery, the Florida-based craft brewery that originally worked on the idea with We Believers, started using the new rings earlier this year. The product is now in more than 500 stores in Florida. To date, Vega says, it’s performing well, both for consumers and for retailers who have to handle the six-packs. Other craft breweries in the U.S., Australia, Scotland, and South Africa are also beginning to use the packaging. The next step will be to begin to get Big Beer on board, beginning with Corona.
The company will be looking at how the packaging performs in tests of its durability in different conditions, handling, and how the rings interact with their factories. “For any solution like this to be considered for rollout at a regional, national or global scale, it needs to go through a variety of tests to ensure we are providing the environmental benefit without sacrificing the consumer experience,” Corona said in a statement. “The goal is to prove that achieving both is possible.” It could be the beginning of a shift throughout the industry. Carlsberg, the Danish brand, is beginning to use a new type of glue instead of plastic six-pack rings. And Vega says that E6PR has been approached by every major beer company.