14 Juni 2005

Paper plates from sugar cane waste fibers

Clever firm manufactures biodegradable paper plates from sugar cane waste fibers

Mike: I’m talking to Bret Chandler, nicknamed Buzz. He’s the president of Asean Corporation, who are the makers of Stalk Market. Can you talk about these unique biodegradable paper and food packaging products?

Chandler: (Stalk Market) completely composts in your backyard; it doesn’t have to go to a commercial composter. In your backyard or your flowerbed in about six weeks, depending on climatic conditions. On average, in six weeks. It’s made from the waste fiber from the sugar cane refining process, when you make table sugar. Normally, this fiber was just burned in the fields, but now we source in Southeast Asia, where they are using this as a replacement for regular wood fibers and styrofoam.

We make it into a molded product, for disposable paper plates, bowls, pizza containers, and supermarket trays. It’s very easily renewable; sugar cane is a tropical grass that renews itself about every 12 months for harvest, so we use zero wood pulp. So the trees that are in use can be diverted to more traditional uses, such as for forest or for long-term use like lumber products instead of easily disposed products.

Mike: How has it been received by customers?

Chandler: Very well. We have no plastics in it.

Mike: Tell us about its history.

Chandler: The grass itself goes back to the time of the ancient Egyptians, when it was used as paper. Then about 150 years ago, as people found that they could use wood fibers, and the technology came along to use soft wood fibers or hard wood fibers, it kind of disappeared for a while because of the economics. Now, especially in Southeast Asia and China, it’s coming back very strong. China has enacted laws against what they call “light pollution” of products such as styrofoam. Manufacturers go out and find alternate products. This is one of them. This product has been on the market in Asia and in Europe for about 12 years. We produced all of the disposable containers and plates and everything for the 2000 Sydney Olympics, as the official supplier. That was the “Green” Olympics. So it’s been around. For a variety of reasons, we only just brought it into the United States about a year ago.

Mike: Price wise, how does it compare?

Chandler: It costs about the same as regular paper products. It’s not a premium-priced product at all.

Mike: Is that the initial attraction, then, the compost ability?

Chandler: The compost value and people realizing that, price wise, it’s comparable to what we would call ordinary plastic-lined paper products now. We made a conscious decision to be price competitive with the more traditional products, because we felt that, in the past, too many of the newer technology products that are still coming on line, like some of the potato starch products, are pricing themselves too high. They’re trying to get rich on their first sale, and that’s not the way to do it. We’re not getting rich, but we priced ourselves to be competitive with a normal paper product and, in some cases, cheaper. We also don’t have any petroleum in our products

Mike: Is there a website that people can visit?

Chandler: http://www.stalkmarket.net

Mike: Do you have any other distribution points in the US?

Chandler: Yes, we currently have distribution up and down the West Coast, in Oregon, Washington, California. We’ll get to Arizona soon. We can move into Idaho. We introduced the product to this show a year ago. Since then, we’ve been concentrating on just getting our warehousing and logistics in place on the West Coast before we try to push it throughout the United States. But we’re moving out. Our products are compostable with wet garbage, so if your town, community or company has a wet garbage composting program, our products can go in just fine.

(cf. news of August 21, 2002 and May 29, 2000.)

Source: Newstarget.com June 13, 2005.

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