4 Myths About Using Six-Pack Plastic Rings for Craft Beer

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In the past, six-pack plastic rings were unquestionably the best option for holding beer cans in place. Craft brewers would never think to question these time-tested and universally-recognized forms of packaging.

However, today, many brewers have begun shying away from using these rings. Unfortunately, this costly decision is often made based on bad information.

4 Myths About Using Six-Pack Plastic Rings for Craft Beer Cans

If you’re a craft brewer who has put off using six-pack plastic rings to keep your cans in place, it’s probably because of one or more of the following myths.

1. Six-Pack Plastic Rings Are Bad for Environment

Without a doubt, this is by far the most pervasive myth regarding six-pack plastic rings.

There are a lot of reasons it has endured, too. For most people, though, the recurring thought of a sea turtle or some other majestic animal with the plastic around its mouth is enough to keep us from using these rings. It’s why so many of us who still use this type of packaging clip the rings when we’re done, rendering it harmless to wildlife.

It’s also why many companies avoid this type of packaging altogether. In the craft beer community, it’s often more acceptable to pick bottles simply because their packaging doesn’t carry nearly the same stigma.
That said, this myth was debunked nearly 20 years ago. When The Straight Dope looked into six-pack plastic rings back in 1999, they pulled data from the Center for Marine Conservation. It found that, of the 10.4 million pieces of marine debris collected in 1998, only 50,000 were six-pack rings.

While that’s still a large number, it’s only 0.48% of the total. There’s also no way to tell how long it took for that amount to amass in the ocean. It could have been decades-worth of plastic rings.

That same article also points out that U.S. cleanup efforts between 1988 and 1998 came across a total of 1,089 instances of animals becoming entangled in marine debris. Only about 7% of those occurred because of rings.

The potential threat to the environment posed by plastic rings didn’t really enter mainstream conversations the publishing of 1989’s 50 Simple Things You Can Do to Save the Earth. By the time the updated version was released in 1989, advice about cutting these rings up to save wildlife had been dropped altogether.

In any case, none of this is really relevant anymore, thanks to a specific type of plastic that’s designed to fall apart in the sunlight. At Mumm Craft Products, we make our six-pack rings from photodegradable plastic. So even if it were to end up in the ocean, about 30 days of exposure to the sun is all it would take for the rings to become brittle enough that they would lose their strength and pose no threat. The process would begin within the first week.

One final point worth bringing up, as well: the total amount of materials required to package a six-pack of beer is significantly less than the amount needed for six bottles. This is one of the many reasons more and more craft brewers are switching to cans. Aluminum is also the most recyclable of any material, including glass.

2. Applying Six-Pack Plastic Rings Is Difficult

Another reason some manufacturers in the craft beer community are steering clear of six-pack plastic rings is because of the belief that they’re difficult to apply.

This misconception may spring from the fact that, once applied, these rings provide a rather tight fit. After all, if they didn’t, they wouldn’t be much use. Unfortunately, this effectiveness may also convince some brewers that they’re more trouble than they’re worth.

In reality, applying six-pack plastic rings couldn’t be easier. You can effortlessly package at least three six-packs a minute with nothing more than some manual pressure.

Of course, if your volume requirements are significantly higher, there are beer packaging machines that can easily reach 300 CPM (300 cans per minute), including applying six-pack plastic rings.

3. It’s Nearly Impossible to Get Your Craft Beer Loose

This is a more recent myth that’s sweeping through the industry. You’re probably aware of the six-pack materials that come with full covers that go over the tops of the cans. The problem with this option is that they can make it incredibly difficult to remove the cans.

If you haven’t had the pleasure yet, you can actually watch a video of people struggling with this packaging, including a tutorial on how to get your beer free.

Fortunately, the traditional version we’re all familiar still makes accessibility incredibly easy. There doesn’t need to be any extra steps between your beer and the person who can’t wait to savor it.

4. All Six-Pack Plastic Rings Look the Same

You don’t have to be working in craft brewing for long to know that how you package your beer matters. Obviously, this is true for just about any item, but craft brewing is an incredibly competitive field. So it makes sense that brewers will go to great lengths to give their products the best possible chance of grabbing attention from their spots on the shelves.

That’s why many shy away from using cans and six-pack plastic rings to hold them. Although the can provides ample space for marketing purposes, the rings seem like they don’t provide a lot of options for personalization. Using bottles and paperboard cartons might initially appear to make a lot more sense.

The truth, though, is that you can pick from a wide range of colors for your six-pack plastic rings. You can pick the perfect color to go with the combination on your cans or pick a contrasting option that will really pop. Whatever the case, you don’t have to choose the traditional opaque version most breweries do.

Six-Pack Plastic Rings Remain a Great Option for Craft Beer

When the confusion caused by myths about six-pack plastic rings is cleared away, it becomes abundantly clear that this option still makes the most sense for most brewers. They’re easy to apply, affordable, harmless to the environment, and, most importantly, hold your beer in place until it’s time to enjoy them.