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End of plastic rings as Guinness joins Carlsberg in getting rid of packaging that strangles birds and fish

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 6 days ago Oliver Gill
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Guinness has joined Carlsberg in scrapping plastic ring carriers, many of which end up in the oceans and endanger sea life.

The brewer has promised that all multi-can packs will be sold in “sustainably sourced, recyclable and fully biodegradable cardboard” instead.

Carlsberg was the first to ditch plastic last September, creating a special glue that holds cans together.

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Guinness said it will take time to phase in its changes though. It will start in Ireland in August before implementing them in the UK and around the rest of the world next year. And it won’t just be cans of the black stuff. Ring carriers and shrink wrap will be removed from multipacks of Harp and Smithwicks too.

It is estimated that around eight million tons of plastic is dumped in the world’s oceans every year. Although beer ring carriers only represent a small fraction of the amount of this, they can be the most dangerous to sea life. Images of sea turtles unwitting ocean-dwellers trapped in plastic or with pieces stuck up their noses has sparked outrage among environmental campaigners.

Carlsberg has estimated its “snap packs” will reduce plastic waste by more than 1,200 tonnes a year, equivalent to 60 million plastic bags.

Guinness is owned by Diageo, the world’s biggest spirits company. The British company that also counts Johnnie Walker whiskey and Baileys within its huge portfolio of brands. Diageo currently exports its drinks to more than 100 countries. It said the plastic ban will be equivalent to removing 40 million 500ml plastic bottles, which if laid out end-to-end, would reach from London to Beijing.

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Six-pack rings invented in the 1960s by packaging company ITW Hi-Cone. By the late-Eighties it was reported that one million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals were being killed every year by them. In 1994, US authorities stipulated ring carriers must be degradable.

While Carlsberg and Guinness are finding new ways to cut out plastic ring carriers, the first fully eco friendly system was launched in 2016 by E6PR. It holds cans together using packaging made from by-product waste and other compostable materials. Left out in the open or in water, it degrades in a matter of weeks.

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Diageo said its commitment would cost the company, one of the largest listed on the London Stock Exchange, some £16 million. Last year, it announced new plastics targets: by 2025 it aims to ensure all plastics are widely recyclable or reusable/compostable.

Mark Sandys, global head of beer, Baileys and Smirnoff for Diageo, said: “For 260 years Guinness has played a vital role in the communities around us. We already have one of the most sustainable breweries in the world at St. James’s Gate and we are now leading the way in sustainable packaging.

David Cutter, Diageo’s chief sustainability officer added: “Great packaging is essential for our products. Consumers expect our packs to look beautiful, be functional, and sustainable. I am proud to announce this investment, through which we have been able to combine all three. We have been working tirelessly to make our packaging more environmentally friendly.”

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