The most widely available alternative is sugarcane. This is mainly cultivated and harvested in Brazil, 2,000km from the Amazon Rainforest region. This distance is part of a governmental effort to protect the rainforest, preventing agriculture from encroaching on precious, highly biodiverse land.
It is commonly planted on degraded pasture land as it can help recover the soil. Sugarcane bagasse, a waste product from the crushing process, is often used to generate electric power to supply the entire ethanol production process, improving the sustainability of the whole process.
The crop is primarily rain fed and produced using organic fertilisers. Sugarcane plastic production is carried out under a grower/supplier code of conduct. This affords new rights to workers and ensures they have a better quality of life.
Production of sugarcane for plastic has become a massive industry. It is estimated that Brazil now produces an estimated 25% of the world’s sugar and ethanol.