The ocean is in crisis.
I don't mean to start this on a down note, but let's be real for a second: There are real problems swirling underneath the waves. Not only are the waters getting warmer and the Great Barrier Reef losing coral, but nearly 8 million tons of plastic are dumped in the water on an annual basis. And that's hurting the creatures that live down where it's wetter. According to recent research, sea animals from birds, to turtles, to whales regularly feed on plastic because it smells like food. That's not good for them.
Here's what it would feel like for a human:
Of course, there are some exciting developments that are working to restore order to King Triton's kingdom.
Have you heard about the plastic-eating mutant that's recently been created by an international team of scientists? What about the Ocean Cleanup Foundation, which plans to reduce half the plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch — it's the largest accumulation of ocean plastic in the world; and yes, that's its real name — in the next five years.
And there's something cool for the rest of us, too. While scientists work on the large-scale solutions, one Florida brewing company has created eco-friendly six-packs for its craft beers, ensuring that your summer trip to the beach will both create awesome memories and prevent the endangerment of sea life.
SaltWater Brewery has been working to bring eco-safe six-pack rings to consumers since it launched in 2013.
At the time, the brewery was working on perfecting the prototypes for the eco-friendly packaging. Now, in a partnership with environmental startup E6PR, the brewery has unleashed the product upon the world.
The company's commitment to the ocean is right in its name.
"The jewel of Florida is the ocean, so we all grew up seeing tar and different plastic on the beach and when we’re surfing and fishing we’ll catch plastic bags, and it’s horrible," Chris Gove, one of the company's co-founders told Upworthy in 2016.
While the plastic rings on your six-packs have been naturally degradable since the late '80s, they can still hurt animals.
These rings can take weeks to break down. In 2017, volunteers at a beach cleanup on Elmer's Island in Louisiana picked up more than 170 plastic rings as they combed the shore for trash. That plastic could have trapped animals and caused problems if it had been ingested. The eco-rings solve that problem.
These rings are still meant to be thrown in the trash. If they don't end up there, though, sea animals have nothing to fear. The packaging is "completely biodegradable, compostable, and edible."
Here's the issue, though: SaltWater is the first company to utilize these rings. And while they're popping up in stores all over Florida — Publix, Total Wine & More, ABC Fine Wine and Spirits — they've still got a long way to go. According to a news release, E6PR is working to bring the packaging to other breweries across the country, though it hasn't revealed which ones yet. But the eco rings are sure to grow in popularity (and drop in price?) as it becomes more apparent how important it is for us to save our oceans.
And I'm sorry, but have you seen a sea turtle lately? They're majestic AF and we should be doing everything we can to protect them. If that means reusing water bottles, not throwing garbage on the beach, and being more conscious of how much plastic we buy in general, it's worth it.
Image by Tarik Tinazay /AFP/Getty Images.