Images of plastic six-pack rings hurting marine wildlife have plagued beer companies for years, leading a few brands to innovate eco-friendly alternatives. Now, one of the largest global beer companies is joining in. After three years of development, Corona is rolling out biodegradable six-pack packaging made from barley, which is not only biodegradable, but also made using a waste product of the beer-making process.
Corona believes the new six-pack holder is a “path forward to eliminate the need for virgin trees and raw material from their supply chain in the future.”
Corona is using barley byproduct to make biodegradable six-packs.
As explained in a news release, Corona uses barley seed to make barley malt, one of the key ingredients in Corona beer. Farmers who grow the barley seed for Corona beer wind up with plenty of barley straw as a byproduct, and Corona has finally found a use for that barley straw.
To make the six-pack box, Corona pulps the barley straw, which is then combined with 100 percent recycled wood fibers. Together, the two fibers form a durable paperboard that is completely plastic-free, and protects glass beer bottles from breaking.
According to Corona, the process of recycling barley straw into fibers uses 90 percent less water (as well as an undetermined percentage of less land, energy, and harsh chemicals) than the process of harvesting virgin wood and turning it into paper.
A spokesperson for the brand tells Green Matters that “this packaging behaves just like regular paper and this takes the same amount of time to biodegrade.” She also claims that it can be recycled curbside with paper; it can also supposedly be composted, even in a backyard compost environment.
This new packaging is not replacing the plastic six-pack rings often used to keep beverage cans together — it’s replacing the cardboard boxes that typically house glass Corona bottles, which are already made from paper. However, that these new paper boxes are made from a combination of recycled barley straw and recycled wood fibers means they still have a lower environmental impact than boxes made from virgin wood fibers.
“We’re excited to finally launch this new packaging innovation we’ve been developing over the past three years,” Keenan Thompson, AB InBev’s Director of Packaging Innovation, said in a statement. “Today is a proud moment for us, not only are we providing an opportunity for farmers but we’re also delivering a more mindful solution to the consumer.”
The new six-packs just debuted in Colombia.
As of March 2021, 10,000 units of the new six-pack packaging are being tested in Colombia, to be followed by more in Argentina later this year.
Should the tests go successfully, Corona’s parent company, AB InBev, plans to introduce the six-packs to some of its other brands in the future. AB InBev owns more than 500 beverage brands, including Beck’s, Budweiser, and Modelo — so this change could make a huge impact across the industry.