PLASTIC SIX-PACK rings are one of the biggest threats to marine life. When tossed into the ocean, the rings are often mistaken for jellyfish and swallowed by larger fish, while smaller fish and birds can easily become tangled in their loops. The Saltwater Brewery in Florida has come up with a potential solution: edible binders for beer cans. The holders are made using by-products from the brewing process and can be eaten by marine animals. And if not consumed, they are fully biodegradable and quickly disintegrate. Marco Vega, of the brewery’s advertising agency, said: “Initially we wanted to make the rings from seaweed but it was too fragile and rigid. But what we have come up with works perfectly and is safe in the sea.” The brewery has made metal molds capable of churning out 4OO,OOO rings a month at a cost of 21 cents each compared to 14 cents for their plastic ones. But it says that, if big beer companies implement this technology, the manufacturing cost will drop and become very competitive. It also believes customers will pay extra because of the environmental benefits. The binders fit the standard six-pack but could easily work on four-packs. Greenpeace has thrown its weight behind the invention and hopes UK brewers will adopt the idea. Already major brewers including Carlsberg and hundreds of smaller craft breweries are in talks with Saltwater about the binders. However, Dr. Sue Kinsey, senior pollution policy officer at the Marine Conservation Society, cautioned: “Wheat and barley by-products [from brewing beer], while better than plastic, aren’t a natural diet for marine life and, if ingested, the effects are still unknown. The best thing would be not to throw these things away in the first place.” A recent report from US scientific research group PNAS said that about 9O percent of seabirds have eaten plastic and predicted that, by 2O5O, any seabird found dead will have plastic in its stomach.