The impact of a decade-long collaboration between founder-led sustainable packaging group BioPak and not-for-profit organisation Rainforest Rescue is far greater than the newly unveiled milestone of planting of 330,000 trees worldwide.
BioPak CEO Gary Smith, who co-founded the plant-based plastic packaging pioneer with Richard Fine in 2006, says the partnership that has diverted 1 per cent of group profits to Rainforest Rescue was initially seen as a small step to encourage more corporates to drive change.
Today, 147 companies are contributing to Rainforest Rescue in a similar way, giving the once fledgling not-for-profit company the resources to continue its mission to buy back blocks of land in the Daintree and regenerate them into natural forest habitat.
Rainforest Rescue this week marked the 10-year anniversary of its partnership with BioPak by revealing the collaboration has led to 56,900 trees either planted or rescued directly from the support of packaging group.
The partnership is also funding the development of major new native nursery at Cape Tribulation in Australia’s tropics, which is expected to produce one million trees over the next decade.
Smith describes Rainforest Rescue as the flagship cause for BioPak, a company founded on the principle of creating a circular economy at a time when it was considered a fad rather than an imperative.
“We produced a compostable cup in 2008 and the compostable sugar cane cup in 2011 - all our products have been plant based and compostable,” Smith tells Business News Australia.
“They use 70 to 80 per cent less carbon, but we were the only people doing it in 2008. Fast forward to today, it is the law. Most states have made disposable cutlery compostable, and they are now banning products that we have never made.”
Smith says education and collaboration has been a key part of this journey.
"Fifty percent of our job is education and collaboration because we have a passion to make sure all single-use items are truly circular and are at the forefront of an environmental solution," he says.
“We know recycling doesn’t work. Only 9 per cent of plastics are recycled in Australia at best and, since 2006, Richard and I had one philosophy for plant-based packaging that has a circular solution.”
The decision to support Rainforest Rescue aligns with the BioPak founders’ ethos and desire to have a more direct impact on the environment beyond simply using carbon offsets.
“Rainforest Rescue at the time was a small organisation in Byron Bay and their mission was to reclaim land in the Daintree which faced a lot of erosion,” says Smith.
“Obviously a lot of land over the past 100 years has been converted to farmland and, with the Daintree the second-biggest oxygen producer in the world, we thought it would be great to support them.
“It is our responsibility as a company to do everything we can to make this world a better place.”
Rainforest Rescue CEO Branden Barber says BioPak’s support has been integral in driving broader support for his organisation’s work in the Daintree.
“These kinds of partnerships deploy capital for positive environmental and conservation outcomes – without that support, those outcomes would not be possible,” he says.
“BioPak is ahead of the curve, and that encourages other companies to lift their game. BioPak is creating multiple positive impacts through our partnership, and we’re immensely grateful for it.”
The impact of BioPak, one of Australia’s largest suppliers of sustainable disposable packaging for the food service industry, has boomed in line with a surge in the company’s global reach in recent years.
The expansion followed a buyout of 75 per cent of shares held by Smith and Fine by Sweden’s Duni Group in 2018. Smith says the acquisition was solely aimed at helping BioPak ‘aggressively’ accelerate its global impact.
“That is why we took them on as investors,” says Smith.
“Everyone was knocking on our door, but we certainly didn’t need the cash to run our business. Duni introduced an opportunity for us to get into Europe and the UK, and we have now done that successfully. Europe has added 40 to 50 per cent to our company in the last three to four years.
“We have been able to expand the brand internationally quite aggressively. Even during COVID we opened in Singapore. As a result, more goes into our carbon program and more goes into our support for Rainforest Rescue and Oz Harvest.”
BioPak’s partnership with Oz Harvest aligns with the company’s own initiative Compost Connect, which aims to halve food waste in Australia by 2030.
“Compost Connect is an education platform to help people divert from landfill. With Rainforest Rescue, we really wanted to educate people on how important it was to reclaim land and grow trees.
“There is no planet B, and the vital work that non-profits such as Rainforest Rescue do is so incredibly important and we are beyond proud to be a part of their journey and story.”
Get our daily business news
Sign up to our free email news updates.