Gull with plastic ring

6 Pack rings where they’ve been and where they’re going

July 24, 2018

By Laine Roberts, Recycling Education Specialist, City of Greensboro

It’s no secret we humans produce way too much garbage. Case in point: the plastic 6-pack ring. These were developed in the 1960’s to conveniently carry canned drinks, and within 10 years, completely replaced paper and metal based holders. The plastic rings caused many environmental issues from being ingested by animals to being wrapped around their necks or wings.

Today’s plastic 6-pack rings have improved since the original - many are now made with LDPE photodegradable plastic, free of heavy metals or toxic additives. While these rings degrade more quickly than the old rings did, they remain problematic because the plastic still gets eaten by animals.  

If you are interested in recycling your 6-pack rings, you might want to ship them to The Ring Leader Program (, where they are part of the open loop recycling program which helps reduce litter and waste in landfills.

And the good news is that there are companies that are working to improve the environmental friendliness of 6-pack rings. A start-up company in Florida, E6PR (, has developed rings made of waste wheat and barley generated from brewing operations that can either biodegrade or serve as a treat for wildlife! The products are now appearing in stores throughout South Florida. They can be disposed of in a compost facility, but even if they end up on the ground or in the water, they degrade within weeks, and don’t harm wildlife if ingested.​

Though this item isn’t in North Carolina yet, you as a consumer have more power than you realize. Call or write your favorite manufacture to let them know you would like to see more products like these! While the best decision is to just stop buying two, four, six and twelve packs made with plastic rings, if you do have some, please remember to cut them, so they can’t entrap any animals!