# Cutting six-pack can rings?January 13, 2010 7:51 PM   Subscribe

Cutting the plastic that comes with six-packs of cans in the most efficient manner?

Since the Great Recession has hit, I've been drinking a lot more canned beer (Simpler Times is made by Huber!), commonly sold in six packs. I'm left with those plastic rings, which I assume have a name that I just don't know. As I've been told that leaving them alone means that they fall into the ocean and choke fish or birds or something, I cut 'em up, trying to cut each hole but also leave the plastic in one piece.

What I want to know is: What is the fewest number of cuts required to do this? (Assume regular scissors; reasonable folding allowed).

AND: Is there any way to prove this without experimentation? A topological proof? I want to be able to talk about this with certainty at cocktail parties.

Cool bar tricks involving the plastic also accepted.
posted by klangklangston to Grab Bag (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

Fold twice, until you have a stack 3 deep of two wide. Then once more, for a stack of six.

Cut once to sever every ring.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 7:54 PM on January 13, 2010 [5 favorites]

You need to cut the outside of every ring. Cutting the bits between rings just makes bigger rings. So folding and cutting as Dipsomaniac says is the only way to reduce the six cuts needed.
posted by shelleycat at 8:29 PM on January 13, 2010

I think different manufacturers may have different configurations of plastic. For the kind of soda my wife gets, I have to cut the six rings, but there are also little holes in the middle, to allow you to carry the thing. I think with appropriate (reasonable) folding, two is the minimum number of cuts.
posted by Gorgik at 8:29 PM on January 13, 2010

Every cut either combines two bubbles together (into one bigger bubble, topologically speaking) or else it opens a bubble into the outside world. So on every cut the number of bubbles goes down by 1.

You start with six bubbles and you want zero, so it takes six cuts, each of which gets rid of one bubble.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:33 PM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

You don't need to bother. Those rings are photodegradeable now.
posted by chairface at 9:52 PM on January 13, 2010

Dipso, Gorgik: Gorgik's right; the six-pack plastic has inner connectors that connect the ring. It's not just the six rings that need cut, it's also the eight inner ringlets.

Chairface: Cool, but I'm still curious, y'know?
posted by klangklangston at 10:20 PM on January 13, 2010

Just cut them. By the time you get around to folding them up, you could have cut them all.
posted by jasondigitized at 5:04 AM on January 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

I found that Straight Dope article to be unsatisfying in several ways. Firstly, rings accounting for seven percent of entanglements is not an insignificant thing. Secondly, it says that the manufacturer of the rings makes photodegradable rings; we do not know if all the rings they make are photodegradable and we do not know how much light over how much time they would take to degrade. Lastly, the article assumes that the bulk of rings in the ocean is caused by their being discarded by users on the beach and does not take into account trash from houses and business that ends up in the oceans.
posted by Morrigan at 6:40 AM on January 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

Cool bar tricks involving the plastic also accepted.

Fold twice, until you have a stack 3 deep of two wide. Then once more, for a stack of six.

Then insert as many fingers of both hands as you can fit in, and pull both hands apart, snapping the plastic. Do it quickly or it takes more strength. Wimps do this with hands behind the head (which takes less strength).
posted by Rash at 9:12 AM on January 14, 2010

I'm left with those plastic rings, which I assume have a name that I just don't know

That, sir, is a yoke.

posted by mudpuppie at 9:20 AM on January 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Also, as for the photodegradability -- they don't instantly self-destruct after the cans are removed. They stay around long enough for birds to get tangled in them. My next-door neighbor does bird rescue, and I have personally seen a crow who was wrapped up so tight in a six-pack yoke that he was doubled over with his beak alongside his leg and couldn't straighten up. The thing had cut into his skin. It was really awful.

I always cut mine too.
posted by mudpuppie at 9:24 AM on January 14, 2010

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