Rutgers University: Ellen Chen, Michelle Leong, Vance Balce, Louis Li

Traditional plastic six-pack rings that are used to carry aluminum cans are notorious for contributing to the plastic waste found in our oceans. As stated by the UN, “...about 300 million tons of plastic waste every year are produced, nearly equivalent to the weight of the entire human population. If current trends continue, oceans may contain more plastic than fish by 2050”. Additionally, conventional single-use plastics are known for polluting and harming ocean life. The plastic rings especially are commonly mistaken for food, and animals even become entangled in them. Hi-Cone’s 2020 Sustainability Report highlights that “[t]he single-use phenomenon depletes natural resources, adds greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, harms wildlife, and contaminates ecosystems.”

To combat this global issue, Carbo Carrier has been engineered to ensure a positive, streamlined cradle-to-cradle process. Carbo Carrier is both 100% recyclable and biodegradable since it is made of C-flute corrugated cardboard. Corrugated cardboard has one of the highest recycling rates of any form of packaging in the world. In the U.S., the total amount of plastic recycled is about 8.4%. In comparison, 65% of paper is recycled while some statistics show that upwards of 96% of corrugated packaging is recycled.

Although the main structure of the new design grabs inspiration from the traditional-style Hi-Cones, it features a handle for easy, on-the-go utility. Six-pack rings made of corrugated cardboard are sufficiently durable and lightweight, but are far more sustainable. The circular cutouts are shaped to allow the rims of the aluminum cans to fit through when force is applied. The small ridges along a single cutout would then engage the neck of the aluminum can, securing the can in place for handling. As the weight of the Carbo Carrier is 10 grams, it is less than 3 times the current weight of the six-pack carrier design, thus maintaining a low carbon footprint. Furthermore, the graphics of the Carbo Carrier is created to be compatible with any beverage brand while conveying the packaging’s sustainable design to the consumer.

A key insight noted in the Hi-Cone 2020 Sustainability Report is that “60% of adults across all territories said they agreed with the statement ‘I don’t know how to recycle some types of plastic packaging.’” Since the new design has no plastic, consumers can easily recycle the six-pack carrier without hesitation. Unlike the traditional Hi-Cone design, Carbo Carrier includes How2Recycle labels to indicate to consumers that the six-pack carrier can be recycled and should be recycled. The objective of including labels is to mitigate any confusion on how each packaging component should be recycled. In 2010, 87 percent of the population had access to curbside and/or drop-off paper recycling. Based on that statistic, curbside/drop-off paper recycling is easily accessible to the majority of consumers in the U.S.

We are committed to shaping a path to a more sustainable tomorrow...think globally, act locally!