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Six Pack Rings

Six Pack Rings, Problems With Soda RingsGrowing up, one thing I always remember hearing about was that those plastic six pack rings that hold together cans of soda and beer could strangle sea turtles.  Horrified, I always made certain to cut them up before disposing of them.

What is really the deal with these six pack rings?  If they are killing marine life, why are they still in such widespread use?  Does cutting them up really help?

A bit of history:  Six pack rings came about in the 1960s, but by the late 1970s, they were cited as a dangerous form of marine litter.  Marine wildlife, such as sea turtles, can been caught in these rings unable to free themselves.

In 1987, an Associated Press story claimed:  "Marine scientists and environmentalists say an estimated one million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals are killed each year by six-pack rings and other plastic material they mistake for food."

However, according to The Straight Dope, the six-pack-ring threat has been seriously exaggerated over the years. They cite data from the Center for Marine Conservation, stating that only 50,000 of the 10.4 million items collected during the 1998 cleanup (or 0.48%) were six-pack rings. Between 1988 and 1998, U.S. cleanups uncovered over 1000 instances of animal entanglement, but only 7% involved those six pack rings. The real problem was fishing equipment, which accounted for 42% of the cases from fishhooks, fishing line, lobster traps, nets, etc.

Hi-Cone, the maker of those six pack rings, has actually been helpful in making them more eco-friendly.  The rings are now photodegradable, and they degrade after being exposed to light after 90 days.  Hi-Cone has also established a recycling program for the six pack rings.

So, what's the verdict?

YES, the rings can harm marine life and cutting them can reduce the possibility of an animal getting caught in them.  But above all, simply don't litter!