Dear Umbra,

I am a huge fan of Guinness, often referring to it as Nectar of the Gods. Question is, are the cans with the cool nitrous plastic doohickeys in them recyclable? I’ve got a bet riding on this with the significant other. Thanks for enlightenment.

Denver, Colo.

Dearest Melissa,

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recycling is
good for you.

That little ball is known as a widget, which is another word for doohickey. It’s made of polypropylene, has a small hole, and, during the canning process, gets filled with nitrogen gas and a teeny-tiny bit of Guinness itself. The pressure in the can holds the gas in the widget. As you eagerly open the can and release the pressure, the gas comes out of the widget, sprays the beer into a froth, and makes a simulacrum of a draught head, hopefully enabling coins to be placed atop the beer.

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When the can is empty, the fun is over, and the little Guinness can heads to the recycling plant for a painful death. First mixed with inferior beverage cans, then crushed, then shredded into strips in preparation for “de-coating” (the removal of the Guinness label) — what ignominy awaits your old can. As it’s shredded, the widget comes to light and is removed and destroyed. Thus your can dies and is reborn. Soon it learns whether it will be reincarnated as MGD or Red Bull.

Meanwhile, you have moved on to another day, another beer. How callous is humanity. But at least you care to recycle.


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