Plastic six-pack rings are still ubiquitous decades after they were first criticized for harming the environment—but beer companies are finally beginning to shift to alternatives. The latest is Heineken UK, which announced today that it will roll out a new cardboard topper on multipacks in U.K. stores beginning next April.
By the end of 2021, the company will eliminate plastic rings and shrink-wrap on all of the beer and cider brands that it sells in the country, saving more than 500 metric tons of plastic each year. The design—which manages to make sustainably-sourced cardboard sturdy enough to hold four cans without breaking—cost the company £22 million ($28 million) to develop and implement.
Other brewers are also testing alternatives. One biodegradable six-pack holder, made in part with waste from the brewing process, is safe enough for wildlife that it’s technically edible. Corona began testing that design in 2018. Carlsberg took another approach, using an innovative new glue that can hold cans together without any larger packaging. All of this is part of a larger wave of major companies that are beginning to move away from plastic. For Heineken, the new cardboard topper is “a significant milestone in our journey to eliminate all single-use plastic,” Cindy Tervoort, the U.K. marketing director for the company, said in a release.