Carlsberg replaces plastic six-pack rings with glue

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The new ‘snap packs’ will reduce plastic waste by 75 percent.

Carlsberg, the big Danish brewer, says it will be the first company to ditch plastic six-pack rings. It has come up with an innovative solution, a type of glue that holds the cans firmly together but allows them to be pulled apart with an audible snap. Replacing six-pack rings with this glue will cut down on plastic waste by 76 percent and eliminate 1,200 tonnes of plastic from entering the environment; that’s the equivalent of 60 million plastic bags. From the Guardian:

“Cans in four, or six, or eight-can packs are held together by tiny blobs of a strong glue, which has been designed to withstand a range of temperatures including storage, transportation and then refrigeration in the home. The cans audibly snap when pulled apart, and the glue can be recycled along with the aluminium can.”

Sky News reports that it took Carlsberg three years to test more than 4,000 different adhesive formulations before settling on this one. Boas Hoffmeyer, head of sustainability, said:

“It’s a little bit of magic. It’s glued together so you can’t actually see the packaging. It’s almost not there, and that is what is extremely exciting from a sustainability perspective.”

It’s an important breakthrough because plastic six-pack rings are notoriously dangerous for marine wildlife. They are mistaken for food and ingested and sometimes get tangled around animals’ necks. They wash up on shorelines, with a spokeswoman from the Marine Conservation Society saying that 100 were found in a single beach cleanup day last year.

Britons will be the first to try the new ‘snap packs,’ as they consume 30 percent of the beer that Carlsberg produces, followed by a launch in Norway. Eventually the new packaging will extend to the company’s entire line, including Tuborg and San Miguel beers.

This solution seems more realistic and affordable than the fancy biodegradable six-pack rings that made headlines a couple years ago. The grain-based formula was even touted as being nutritious for marine life (because fish need corn to thrive?). But the cost was high and that’s probably why uptake has been slow; I haven’t seen any sign of the packs at my local store, but then I usually buy beer in reusable glass bottles without packaging because I’m leery of BPA and aluminum.

Carlsberg’s announcement will hopefully become a model for the rest of the brewing world. It sounds like they’re being pleasantly non-competitive about it, with the CEO saying,

“I think, frankly, in the area of environmental footprints we should not compete, we should not race each other, we should not make this a kind of competitive edge for us.”