Something’s brewing. Could this six-pack save our marine life?

 
 
 

Our oceans are meant to home spectacular sea creatures. Instead, they harbour flowing piles of trash. As a surfer, James Williams has seen rubbish in the waters of almost every country he’s been to. “I found it disgusting to be paddling around surrounded by plastic,” he says. “I can’t imagine living in it.” But this is the reality for marine life – the result of human activity and consumption. And it isn’t the doing of just one person or group. Surrounded by the shocking state of the seas, Williams began evaluating his own contribution to the problem.

Williams brews beer, a product usually sold in cans and encased in plastic. If not disposed of correctly, the plastic components land in the ocean where it’s ingested by seabirds and turtles. “I saw the harm that plastic rings around beers were causing and I wanted to start there,” Williams says. Research led him to an international company that make biodegradable holders for six-packs. By bringing them to South Africa, Williams is working to decrease the amount of waste close to home. The holders disintegrate in a few weeks if left in the open – a drastic improvement from ordinary plastic which takes 200 years to decompose at sea. Made with byproducts of the beer-making process, the Environmental Six-Pack Rings (E6PR) give the term drinking like a fish a whole new meaning. “Not only does the holder decompose, it also provides a source of food for the fish if it does land in the ocean,” Williams says.

With this innovative alternative, the Rosebank Brewing Company is the first brewery in South Africa to use eco-friendly packaging. By implementing changes at a commercial level, more people are inadvertently making a difference. “You are by default helping others to recycle,” Williams says. Compared to the millions of tonnes of waste that pollute our seas, this may seem like just a drop in the ocean. But it takes one small action to have a ripple effect. “Environmental change starts on our shores,” Williams says.