Our journey of growth
It’s taken time but our hard work has finally paid off – ecostore is one of the first manufacturers to convert our bottles to renewable, recyclable, sugarcane plastic. Here’s the story of our journey, and why we believe this change is so important.
There’s a very good reason why it’s called Carbon Capture™ Pak. As sugarcane grows it captures CO₂ from the atmosphere, that is then stored in the plastic. This natural process actually reduces our carbon footprint, which effectively helps to reduce climate change.
Plastic packaging is one of the world’s big problems, filling up landfills and polluting oceans. It’s also a real challenge for us here at ecostore: how to make our packaging safe, stylish and easy to use while also being sustainable. We’ve always opted for the best options available to us – even when that’s meant making difficult choices like using plastic. We’ve been open about these less-than-perfect steps because we believe in transparency, and because we know they’re stepping stones towards our goal of finding a safer alternative.
Now with sugarcane-based high density polyethylene (HDPE) from Brazil becoming available to us, we can make sugarcane-based plastic bottles that are 100% recyclable. The renewable crop traps CO₂ as it grows, which is then stored in the plastic. This lowers our carbon footprint and helps reduce climate change. We haven’t used sugarcane based plastic before as no other suitable recyclable bio-based plastics were available, but now ecostore will be able to save 639 tonnes per year of CO₂ compared to using traditional plastic ².
We’re one of the first manufacturers to convert our bottles to this plastic and it’s a big step on our journey to a sustainable future – one that’s always evolving with new innovations. We hope you’ll join us as we continue to pursue our dream of a healthier and safer world.
On our search for a better plastic, it was important that it met our standards for social and environmental responsibility. Just because something comes from a plant doesn’t necessary mean it’s all good. We identified sugarcane as the best alternative: the fact that it is 100% recyclable was very important combined with its ability to reduce our CO₂ emissions by 639 tonnes in the first year alone.
We’ve done our homework to make sure sugarcane plastic is a sustainable choice behind the scenes. 90% of sugarcane cultivation in Brazil is more than 2500 km from the Amazon Rainforest Region. In 2009, the federal government established the ‘Sugarcane Agro-ecological Zoning Policy’, this prohibits the planting of sugarcane in areas with high level of biodiversity, including among other areas, the Amazon, Pantanal biomes, native areas, indigenous lands and environmentally protected lands. In fact, most new land converted for sugarcane production comes from degraded pasture land, which means it does not compete for food and helps recover the soil. The government has also accepted a proposal to limit the expansion of sugarcane cultivation to 7.5% of Brazil’s landmass (65.7 million hectares). This proposal took into account the environmental, economic and social aspects to ensure the sustainable expansion of sugarcane.
Our sugarcane-based HDPE supplier has implemented a Code of Conduct for Ethanol Suppliers which ensures they adhere to the above regulations as well as the reduction of cane burning, conserving biodiversity, good environmental practises, respect for human rights and life cycle assessment. They are frequently audited by an independent third party to ensure they are meeting the standards. Another advantage is that sugarcane bagasse, a waste product from the crushing process – is often used to generate power to supply the entire ethanol production process, which makes it energy self-sufficient. Any surplus power is sent to the grid, adding energy to Brazil's energy matrix. Other waste residues such as filter cake and vinasse are utilised as organic fertiliser, which when used properly contributes to improvements in soil quality.
We recognise that any plastic not disposed of properly still leads to waste, that is why this is just one step on our journey to a more sustainable future and we’ll continue to innovate our packaging. Keep an eye out for further plastic waste reduction initiatives we have coming out in the next year.
- How does sugarcane capture CO₂ and reduce your carbon footprint?
Plants take in CO₂ from the atmosphere through small pores in their leaves. They need CO₂ for photosynthesis, which leads to the production of sugars, and eventually more complex molecules for use by the plant in growth and metabolism.
The CO₂ captured during the sugarcane cultivation process (from sugarcane growth until its production) remains stored during the plastic's entire life cycle (as long as it is not incinerated).
- Are Carbon Capture™ Paks 100% recyclable?
Sugarcane-based HDPE is physically and chemically identical to traditional petrochemical plastic. This means it can be recycled in the same chain used for recycling traditional high-density polyethylene (#2) from petrochemical sources (unlike other bio-based plastics for which very limited recycling systems exists).
- Why is Carbon Capture™ so important?
Carbon Capture™ Pak reduces the need for fossil fuels. Polyethylene (plastic) is conventionally produced from raw materials such as oil or natural gas, which are non-renewable, as they are derived from pre-historic fossils and are no longer readily available once used. The extraction processes used to obtain fossil fuels are associated with many negative environmental impacts including risks of oil spills, destruction of wide areas of land and resulting ecological imbalance.
- Are there additional benefits from using Carbon Capture™ Paks?
Processing facilities that make the sugarcane ethanol operate almost exclusively on renewable energy that comes from the sugarcane by-products. Sugarcane bagasse, a waste product from the crushing process, is often used to generate power to supply the entire ethanol production process, which makes it energy self-sufficient. Any surplus power is sent to the grid, adding energy to Brazil's energy matrix. The production process of Carbon Capture™ plastic uses over 70% less fossil fuels than traditional petroleum-based (HDPE) plastic.
- Is it biodegradable?
No, it is not biodegradable or compostable. Current technology requires biodegradable plastic to go through a commercial composting facility. This is not readily available in Australia or New Zealand as a result biodegradable plastic ends up contaminating recycling streams or ends up in landfill where it is slow to biodegrade so less than ideal. Like plastics made from petrochemicals, Carbon Capture™ Pak is a recyclable material and in fact can be recycled normally using the facilities we already have. If our Carbon Capture™ Pak did biodegrade or is incinerated, the captured CO₂ would be released back to the atmosphere and it would then be carbon neutral. The fact that it is recyclable is a benefit as it reduces carbon emissions.
- What % of the bottle comes from sugarcane?
92% of our Carbon Capture™ Paks content comes from renewable sugarcane content and remainder is mostly colour dye³. Produced from Brazilian sugarcane, which is a renewable resource with an annual growth cycle.
- How many of your bottles will be made from sugarcane plastic?
98% of our bottled product is converting to sugarcane-based HDPE. This currently, excludes our caps, lip balm tubes and some of our bulk products. We are currently investigating changing these as well.
- Is there any noticeable difference in the plastic?
No, changes to ecostore bottles will be unnoticeable as sugarcane-based plastic is physically and chemically identical to traditional petrochemical plastic. In fact, the only way to differentiate the two products is through C-14 carbon dating. The same performance you love and expect but in a more sustainable bottle. That’s why we are embossing the base with the logo ‘Carbon Capture™’ without this, there’s no way to tell the difference.
- Is the use of pesticides and fungicides a regular practice on sugarcane plantations?
The main diseases that threaten the plants are treated using biological controls and genetic improvement programs. This way, the use of pesticides on sugarcane plantations in Brazil is low and the use of fungicides is practically non-existent.
- Do you use genetically modified sugarcane crops?
No, genetically modified sugarcane is not sold in Brazil, which is where our sugarcane is grown. This is currently restricted to cotton, corn and soybean only.
- Does sugarcane cultivation use only rainwater?
Sugarcane in Brazil is practically not irrigated. Water needs, in the agricultural phase, are resolved naturally by the rainfall of the producing regions, mainly the center-south of Brazil, and is complemented by the application of vinasse, a co-product of ethanol production that is rich in water and organic nutrients, in a process called fertigation.
- Where does the Sugarcane come from?
90% of sugarcane cultivation and harvesting in Brazil is concentrated in the South-Central region of Brazil, which is located more than 2500km from the Amazon rainforest. The expansion of planted areas is regulated by the Sugarcane Agro-ecological Zoning Policy, a regulatory framework implemented in 2009 by the federal government that prohibits planting in areas with high levels of biodiversity, including among other areas, the Amazon, Pantanal biomes, indigenous lands and environmentally protected lands.
- Does the growing consumption of sugarcane ethanol for sugarcane plastic production have any impact on food production?
Today Brazil has 330 million hectares of arable land, only 1.4% of all arable land in Brazil is dedicated to ethanol production, and the consumption of ethanol for the production of sugarcane plastic represents about 1.7% of the total production of ethanol, or 0.02% of Brazil's arable land4. The existence of available land, combined with a possible intensification of livestock production, makes Brazil a country with room for expansion of agriculture. The use of land for the production of products other than food, even in a very optimistic scenario for the growth of the production of chemicals from renewable sources, should continue representing a small percentage of the total land available. The government has accepted a proposal to limit the expansion of sugarcane cultivation to 7.5% of Brazil’s landmass (65.7 million hectares). This proposal took into account the environmental, economic and social aspects in order to coordinate the sustainable expansion of sugarcane cultivation.
- How many tons of Carbon Capture™ plastic is produced per hectare of sugarcane?
53.5 hectares of land are required to produce a year’s supply of Carbon Capture™ plastic for ecostore; this is accounts for 0.00002% of Brazil’s total arable land. In one hectare, approximately 82.5 tons of sugarcane is produced, which can produce 7,200 litres of ethanol. This volume of ethanol produces three tons of ethylene, generating around three tons of Carbon Capture™ plastic.
- Is sugarcane cultivated in a socially responsible and sustainable manner?
Sugarcane cultivation is conducted in accordance with Brazilian law and the rules and labour conditions established by the International Labour Organization (ILO) that should be followed by all employers, which are subject to regular inspections by the government.
Our sugarcane-based HDPE supplier also has implemented a Code of Conduct for Ethanol Suppliers that is part of the "National Commitment to Social Assistance" program, which ascribes rights to workers and ensures them a better quality of life. The code of conduct covers 5 pillars – reduction of cane burning, conserving biodiversity, good environmental practises, respect for human rights and life cycle assessment. This is guaranteed by a third party auditing programme.
- Is sugarcane burned and will this practice continue?
Traditionally, sugarcane is burnt before manual harvesting, to make the activity of cutting sugarcane safer by burning its straw. The introduction of mechanical harvesting means sugarcane no longer needs to be burnt prior to harvesting and enables leftover leaves and stalks to be collected and used for energy generation. The deadline for the end of burning is provided in Brazilian Law. Additionally, in 2007 the Protocolo Agroindustrial do Estado de São Paulo (Agroindustrial Protocol of the State of São Paulo) was voluntarily launched, which set more restrictive targets than the law. The mills signing this protocol commit to the anticipation of the deadlines to quit burning in legislation. In mechanized areas, the term is from 2014 to 2021, while in areas considered non-mechanized by current technology, the deadline is 2017 to 2031 . In 2009, over 95% of all ethanol produced in the state of São Paulo, the largest Brazilian producer state, was produced in mills that signed the Protocol.
1 Life Cycle Assessment Study conducted by our sugarcane-based HDPE supplier in 2013 (Cradle to Gate)
2 Based on 12 months ecostore sales to 31 May 2014.
Climate Change Authority, ‘Light vehicle emissions standards for Australia’, Average CO2 emissions (grams) per kilometre driven by Passenger Motor Vehicles – 192 CO2 grams/kilometre.
ABS, ‘Survey of Motor Vehicle Use, Australia, 12 months ended 30 June 2012’, released April 2013, 36km/ day average driving done by driver per day in Australia.
3 Determined according to ASTM D6866. Calculation by the Society of the Plastic Industry, Bioplastics Council report.
5 Excluding the cap, lip balm tubes, bulk products.