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Palm Beach County sugarcane growers have a new use for their crop: tableware.
Tellus Products’s new state-of-the-art facility in Belle Glade uses leftover sugarcane fiber, or bagasse, to produce biodegradable plates, bowls and take-out containers.
Gov. Rick Scott cut the ribbon on the 120,000-square-foot facility at a ceremony Tuesday.
Tellus Products is a partnership between Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida and Florida Crystals Corp. The partners have invested $75 million in the venture and hired 50 people to operate the plant. More than 90 percent of its workforce is hired from the Glades region.
At full buildout within five years, the company expects investment to grow to $100 million with 100 total jobs.
“Take a moment to consider that our society uses 20 times more plastic than it did in the 1960s, and only 2 percent of that plastic is actually recycled,” Tellus president Matt Hoffman told around 300 attendees of the ribbon cutting. “Estimates are that by 2050 that number could triple and our oceans will contain more pounds of plastic than pounds of fish.”
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putman said the eco-friendly Tellus products will decompose in weeks, not centuries, and substitute for some of that plastic.
“It’s a Florida-grown crop. It’s a Florida-grown technology. And it’s making more Florida-grown jobs,” Putnam said.