Feature

Plant-based packaging that's 100% recyclable

In a world-first for an entire range, ecostore have introduced packaging made from plant-based plastics – and not only is it 100% recyclable, it removes carbon dioxide from our atmosphere.

From March 2015 in Australia, the entire ecostore range won't be bottled in petroleum-based plastic – 98% of the packaging is now derived from sugarcane.

Eco-store founder, Malcolm Rands, is hell-bent on his mission to provide solutions for how to reduce human impact on the planet, at the same time enriching our own lives.

- Advertisement -

From March 2015 in Australia, the entire ecostore range won't be bottled in petroleum-based plastic – 98% of the packaging is now derived from sugarcane.

The co-founder and frontman of ecostore, Malcolm Rands, is hell-bent on his mission to provide solutions for how to reduce human impact on the planet, at the same time enriching our own lives.

“When I first saw this carbon capture packaging, I thought 'wow, amazing', because there's so few products that can take carbon out of the atmosphere and keep it!” Rands tells Green Lifestyle .

Rand explains that others may have been tinkering with this technology for a few years, but “We're the first brand in the world to do this across our entire range... And it's part of a real solution to climate change”.

What's a Carbon Capture Pak?

It's a High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) from sugarcane that's grown sustainably in Brazil.

To make it, the harvested sugar is turned into ethanol, which is dehydrated into ethylene, which is then polymerised into polyethylene. The plastic chips are then shipped by boat to be processed into the Carbon Capture Pak bottles in New Zealand.

Rands explains why he believes so strongly in the eco-benefits of the process. “Most of the time the best you can do is to make something carbon neutral – so that as the plant grows it sucks in carbon dioxide and break it down, and when it decomposes, it releases the CO2 again, along with some water – that's the rule of life basically, because we're all carbon-based units.

“But, with our sugarcane packaging, it's grown, and the carbon is captured in the sugarcane, and it doesn't get to the stage of biodegrading because we take the carbon and make it into a type of non-petroleum based plastic.

“The carbon dioxide remains trapped in the plant, and as long as the plastic is recycled – or even put into landfill – the carbon stays trapped in the plastic. The only time it will go back to the atmosphere is if you burn it, so of course, you need to recycle it.

“We're calling it carbon capture rather than carbon positive because it really does keep CO2 stored as it gets recycled again and again.”

The company says it's net savings for a year will be equivalent to 92,066 daily commutes in a car. Every 1 kg of ecostore's new packaging stores about 2 kg of CO2 that would otherwise be in the atmosphere.

Why is it better than biodegradable plastic?

“Biodegradable plastics aren't great because, for one, they are biodegradable, and you need a special composting facility to keep it at a high heat for three days, and there's nowhere in the southern hemisphere you can do that,” Rands explains.

“Secondly, all the bio-plastics are made from corn, and that is taking-up arable food land, plus most of the corn is coming out of the US and it's all genetically-modified, so that means masses of Roundup, and land degradation.

“The third problem is that greenies like us say 'yay' and we get it and then we think, ok, we'll throw it in the compost, but two years later it's still sitting there not decomposing, so they think 'well, I'd better recycle it then', so it may go into the recycling bin and contaminate an existing recycling scheme.

“It's actually an advantage that the plastic we use from sugarcane doesn't degrade, because it's identical molecularly to the common petrochemical plastic, HDPE.

“In fact, the only way you can tell them apart is by carbon-dating them! One will be 100 million years old, and the other will be a few weeks old. But apart from that you can't tell the difference.”

How is using sugarcane sustainable?

Rands tells us very matter-of-factly that, “of course we made sure the crops are being cultivated in an environmentally and socially sustainable way”.

The sugarcane is harvested and processed in Brazil, where Rands says that it's not taking over large tracts of arable land or clearing forests. It's an annual growth cycle, and the farmers use hardly any pesticides, fungicides, or irrigation. There's a government plan in place, with third-party auditing, to reduce cases of cane burning.

“Sugar is a crop that doesn't need highly-fertile soil, and it doesn't grow near tropical rainforests,” says Rands. Unlike some problematic plants used in industrialised processes – like palm oil – sugar can be grown in most places around the world.

“Sugarcane doesn't take up primary food land,” says Rands. “At the moment, sugar is a massive crop in the world that isn't healthy for people to be eating anyway!

How many times can it be recycled?

Although paper can only be recycled three or four times, there isn't the same issue with the Carbon Capture Pak's.

“The thing with paper is it's the length of the threads that get smaller until they won't hold together anymore. There isn't the same issue with plastic. It eventually gets downgraded, and therefore being used for things like traffic cones, and things that can still be used to hold shape as a large object, but that it isn't critical to be as tough or thin.”

“Of course there's a little carbon used in the processing at the industrial facility, but hopefully that's using clean energy!

Rands says the next step for him is to look into how ecostore can help the recycling industry to become as efficient and reliable as possible.

The new packaging by ecostore is just another example of how the company is always ten steps ahead of everyone else.

The only question we're left pondering is: wouldn't it be great if all plastic packaging could be made and recycled in this way?

-----
Ecostore is giving Green Lifestyle readers a 20% discount on their products until the end of March 2015. Enter the code 'Carbon Capture' at checkout.