Queensland sugarcane growers have today welcomed the state government's decision to ban the use of many single-use plastic items statewide.
Coming into effect on September 1, the ban is part of Queensland's plan to tackle plastic pollution and follows strong support from the community, retailers and industry organisations.
Following the ban of single-use plastic straws, stirrers, plates, bowls, cutlery and expanded polystyrene takeaway food containers and cups throughout Queensland, cane growers are taking the opportunity to provide a more alternative sustainable solution.
Representing the majority of the state's growers, Canegrowers believes the ban will help build the business case for local products that are biodegradable, compostable and based on a renewable resource, such as sugarcane.
Canegrowers chief executive officer Dan Galligan said the ban was a positive move.
"As well as taking some plastic out of the environment and waste stream, the ban should stimulate demand for Australian-made bioplastics and biodegradable fibre products," he said.
"The manufacturing technology exists and we have the renewable feedstock growing in our cane fields in abundance.
"What we need are companies with a conviction to invest in processing and manufacturing in regional Australia to replace the many imported products which are taking the place of the now outlawed plastic straws, cutlery and containers and gaining popularity with consumers."
Queensland's sugarcane growers are expected to harvest around 28 million tonnes of cane this season.
Both the sugar juice and the fibrous material in the stalks could be used to make everything from food wrap, to bags, straws and tableware.
"While we expect sugar crystals for food will always be the main product made from Queensland sugarcane, growers are keen for new, diversified sources of income and to be part of the plastic waste solution," Mr Galligan said.
Mackay sugarcane producer and Queensland Canegrowers chairman Paul Schembri believes diversity will be key to improving resilience for producers in the down times.
"Effectively, we are at the whim and the mercy of the world sugar price, and if the world price isn't strong it can force the industry to struggle," he said.
"If you've got a more resilient base, that is, other income streams that aren't necessarily reliant upon the price of sugar, it can make your business more resilient.
"Currently, sugar prices are strong but the global price can be volatile at times, particularly in recent years where you have policies such as the Indian government subsidising farmers which has had an adverse impact on the sugar price."
While it's no silver bullet, Mr Schembri says it could be the start of setting up some complementary income streams for the industry.
"In the last 25 to 30 years, the industry has changed in its structural composition and we have become more and more exposed to the global sugar price with 98 per cent of our production bearing a risk to the global price," he said.
"That's why we've taken an interest in this. We're not getting carried away by saying this in itself will make the industry 100pc resilient, but it's heading us in a good direction that will hopefully add more strings to our bow," he said.
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