Are Plastic Six-Pack Rings Still Ensnaring Wildlife?

Since the 1970s, the plastic rings have been a symbol of harmful plastic waste, but they may not be as dangerous today.


Plastic six-pack rings were first manufactured in the 1960s. By the 1970s, environmentalists were already calling for their use to be reigned in.

In partnership with the National Geographic Society. This story is part of Planet or Plastic?—our multiyear effort to raise awareness about the global plastic waste crisis. Learn what you can do to reduce your own single-use plastics, and take your pledge.

Much like the plastic straw, six-pack rings are often seen as enemies of the ocean. Though straws and six-pack rings account for only a tiny fraction of all the plastic trash in the ocean, images of hapless marine animals like sea turtles with plastic straws jammed into their noses or plastic six-pack rings encircling their bodies have sparked public backlash against the common items.

Now, some beer companies are trying to create new, innovative ways to hold their cans together without trapping marine animals in any resulting refuse.

Unlike plastic straws, however, viable alternatives aren't always readily available. When the straw was first commercially produced, it was made of paper, making the move away from plastic simply a return to the straws of yore.

The History of Six Packs

Plastic rings have been available for four decades, and they...

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