The unlikely solution to Australia’s huge plastic pollution problem

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REVEALED: The unlikely solution to Australia’s massive plastic pollution problem

  • Sugarcane could be the answer to Australia’s huge plastic pollution problem
  • About 70 billion pieces of soft ‘malleable’ plastic are used in Australia every year
  • Very little is recycled and much of it ends up in landfills or in the ocean
  • That is a problem that Grounded Packaging wants to solve

Sugarcane could be the answer to Australia’s huge plastic pollution problem, say a few Sydney-based entrepreneurs.

About 70 billion pieces of soft ‘malleable’ plastic are used in Australia every year, many of which are used as food packaging.

Very little is recycled and much of it ends up in landfills or in the ocean.

That is a problem that Grounded Packaging wants to solve by creating an alternative to food packaging that works like plastic, but without the harmful effects on the environment.

Sugarcane could be the answer to Australia’s massive plastic pollution problem, say few Sydney-based entrepreneurs (stock)

Former restaurateur Ben Grant, who co-founded the company with Josh Kempton, knows how difficult it is to find affordable and functional alternatives to plastic.

“We tried to be as aware as possible … but there was a particular pain point in understanding the packaging and the options available,” he told AAP.

“The problems or problems with some of those materials are that they are really very expensive, so prohibitively expensive … and that they are limited in their functionality.”

That’s what prompted the couple to develop their BioPE material.

Made from sugarcane fibers, it is fully recyclable and carbon negative – meaning more carbon is captured in the process of making the product than is used.

It can also store oily and wet foods and liquids forced to rely on plastic packaging in the past.

“One of the reasons we are very excited about it is the potential that it should have positive effects on a really large scale,” said Mr. Grant.

“It can be manufactured with traditional production equipment, and the raw material is starting to become more abundant.”

It is also much more affordable than other plastic alternatives, about 1.5 times the price of traditional plastic.

“To put that in context, many of the other alternative materials on the market today are anywhere from two to four times as expensive,” said Mr Grant.

With the industry growing rapidly, the material should become cost-competitive with plastic in a few years, he says.

The product has been tested at companies in the US and UK, including London roasters Flying Horse, and is now available to Australian companies.

Mr Grant said it was not a panacea, but he hoped it would make sustainable practices more accessible to businesses.

“Plastics are dramatically overused … (but) many companies feel that it is too complex or difficult to make changes,” he said.

“I would encourage people to look outside of this because some really interesting technologies are emerging that can help solve the problem.”

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