Australian Academy of Science

Bio-Plastic Processing Methods

   Plastic Waste - An International Crisis


Sugar Cane Growers - Additional Income



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Immediate action must be taken to protect Australia's environment from the proliferation of non-biodegradable plastic bags by utilising the current resources available from Australia's sugar industry. 

Should Australia really want to reduce its consumption and the build-up of slow-degrading plastic in landfills, one answer is softly swaying in the breeze on sugar cane farms in Queensland. 

Australia's Environmental Ministers representing all States and the Federal government, who met in Melbourne on 23 May 2003, have committed their governments to achieve a solution to Australia's current ecological disaster resulting from the over use of petroleum-based plastic bags. 

The solution is staring them in the face! 

In the United States, some of the nation's abundant supply of corn is already being converted into environmentally friendly plastics and fibres for use in products ranging from mattresses and golf shirts to soft drink cups and mini-disc wrappers. 

Similar manufacturing processes, when applied to Queensland's deregulated sugar industry will provide 'Biodegradable Sugarcane Derived Plastic Bags', initially perhaps a little more expensive than traditional plastics, but would present hope for struggling farmers and give birth to a NEW Australian manufacturing industry. 

Cargill Dow is developing plastics produced from corn at its US plant, where refined corn starch is converted into polylactide or PLA. The corn starch is fermented and distilled to extract the carbon, the basic building block for commercial grade plastics and fibres. 

PLA, in pellets the size of match-heads, is being pressed into packaging for food, plastic wrap, foam and dinnerware. It is spun into fabrics at plants in North Carolina, Hong Kong and Japan and marketed under the 'Ingeo' brand of clothing and blankets. Incidentally, 'Ingeo' means, 'ingredients from the earth!' 

Perhaps the greatest appeal of sugarcane plastics is their green credentials. It takes approximately one (1) month for plastic bags made from sugarcane biomass to degrade in a compost heap. A similar, petroleum-based plastic bag could take centuries to decompose. 

Coca-Cola used 500,000 cups made from corn starch plastics at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. Instead of creating a large garbage problem, used cups were simply composted. 

The recycling success of the Sydney 2000 Olympics is yet another example of what has already been achieved by using biodegradable plastic bags and other plastic items. More than 660 tonnes of waste was generated each day at its many venues. 

Of this, an impressive 76 per cent was collected and recycled. Part of this success was due to the use of biodegradable plastics used in the packaging of fast food, making the composting of food scraps an economic proposition as it eliminated the need for expensive separation of packaging waste prior to processing. 

The biggest demand for corn starch plastics has been overseas, including Taiwan, where packing components are developed for the many products it exports to the United States. Taiwan bans petroleum-based plastic shopping bags and disposable plastic tableware. 

Electronics giant Sony was involved in the early development of corn starch plastics and has wrapped its mini-discs in a corn starch based film made by Cargill Dow for over two years. Cargill Dow recently reached an agreement with Taiwan-based Wei Mon Industry to promote and distribute corn starch plastic packaging materials. 

IPER, one of Italy's largest supermarket chains, has been working with the natural based corn starch plastic packaging from Cargill Dow for over a year. 

Australia's sugar industry, not only in Queensland, but also New South Wales, as was now defunct Western Australia, is in economic free-fall, partly due to government deregulation and Australia's National Competition Policy. However, with a prudent investment of taxpayer funds, and with some foresight shown by Federal and State governments, the solution for these two related issues can be simply achieved. 

Australia has the most efficient farmers in the world... a historical fact! 

Successive Australian governments, both Federal and State, have demonstrated duplicity by their combined actions in decimating Australia's primary industries by wanton de-regulation... another historical fact! 

Australia has the benefit of its proficient sugar cane farmers, established sugar mills and manufacturing industries looking to value add from Australia's primary producers. Other benefits would include a reduction in our foreign trade deficit, which in turn would reduce our foreign debt. 

The potential to establish an 'Australian Owned and Operated' industry which will also provide security for a significant section of Australia's rural economy, must not be squandered by elitist, self-serving party politicians, or unelected bureaucrats. 

If collective Australian governments are fair dinkum with their stated concerns for the environment by seeking a solution to the 'plastic bag' dilemma, and their rhetoric concerning the sustainability of Australia's sugar industry, now is the time to 'put up or shut up'! 

As I have provided the company names that can be contacted to clarify the benefits of sugarcane derived plastics, it would take a competent public servant less than an hour to confirm the details. 

It is the duty, and responsibility, of Australia's governments to inform taxpayers as to why the use of Australian Made sugar cane plastics cannot be implemented in an effort to protect Australia's primary producers, revitalise Australian manufacturing industries and save Australia's unique environment.


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SUGAR CANE GROWERS - Additional Income

Meetings and discussions are currently being conducted with interested sugar cane growers in Queensland with the view of their forming regional 'Community Cooperatives'. 

This will allow cane farmers to earn additional income from their crops, in addition to opening opportunities for their direct involvement in the production of sugar cane derived raw materials for bio-plastics, and an opportunity for a financial stake in a NEW manufacturing process of biodegradable plastics.

For more information on 'Biodegradable Sugar-Derived Plastic Bags' or other bio-plastic products... contact Selwyn Johnston via

E-mail :


Plastic Waste - An International Crisis



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Bio-Plastic Processing Methods... 

Blow moulding: A method of fabrication in which a heated plastic mass is forced into the share of a mould cavity by internal gas pressure 

Cast Film: A film made by depositing a layer of plastic, either molten, in solution, or in a dispersion, onto a surface, solidifying, and removing the film from the surface. Films can also be made from Extrusion (see above) 

Compression moulding: The method of moulding a material already in a confined cavity by applying pressure and usually heat 

Extrusion: A process in which heated or unheated plastic is forced through a shaping orifice (a die) in one continuously formed shape, as in film, sheet, rod or tubing 

Injection moulding: The process of forming a material by forcing it, in a fluid state and under pressure, into the cavity of a closed mould. This is the most common production method used with Hemp Plastics 

Thermoplastic: A plastic that repeatedly can be softened by heating and hardened by cooling. In the softened state can be shaped. 90% of plastics are produced in this form. 

Thermoset: A plastic that, after having been cured by heat or other means, is substantially, infusible and insoluble. 

Transfer moulding: A method of forming articles by fusing a plastic material in a chamber and then forcing essentially the whole mass into a hot mould where it solidifies 

Vacuum Forming: A forming process in which a heated plastic sheet is drawn against the mould surface by evacuating the air between it and the mould.