Palm fibre is generally considered a waste by-product of the palm fruit, the crop used to produce palm oil, a major vegetable oil and fat. But increasing production of palm oil in countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia has led to concerns about the impact on biodiversity: according to a recent report, more than 10.7m hectares of land are now devoted to oil palm production worldwide - an increase of 168 per cent on 1960 - and that higher levels of palm oil production are generally associated with a higher number of endangered species. Sustainability But Earthcycle said its sources in West Malaysia have been certified as sustainable by SGS Qualipalm, an auditor for the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). This provides a guarantee that they have not replaced any primary forest or converted any environmentally sensitive areas for the purpose of palm oil production. The RSPO defines and certifies sustainability in the palm oil industry. Shannon Boase, Earthcycle's president, claimed that the company's packaging is doubly environmentally friendly since it is made from a product that is traditionally incinerated as part of the palm oil production process. "Earthcycle developed an innovative way to turn this former waste product into an environmentally responsible packaging alternative, which turns into healthy, productive humus for the soil in less than 90 days," Boase said. "After years of living in South East Asia and being aware of the destructive tendencies of industrial agriculture and the impact of excessive demand, it was important for the assessment to occur," Boase added. "Our partners and end consumers expect Earthcycle to provide, whenever possible, the data to confirm its practices are firmly aligned with sustainability. We are proud to have received qualified documentation stating our environmentally-friendly packaging is made from ethically sourced fibre." Renewability The confirmation of the company's sustainable sources comes hot on the heels of another certification confirming that all the materials used to produce its packaging are certifiably renewable. Earthcycle's packaging, which is available in a number of major retailers in the US - Fresh Produce Packs - includes trays for fresh fruit and vegetables and foodservice trays for sandwiches or burgers. The company is also working on trays for fresh meat and poultry and pots for herbs and seedlings. The company claims that its products could significantly reduce the amount of waste produced by US households. If the 9.3 billion units of pre-packed plastic produce containers used each year in the US were swapped for Earthcycle's palm fibre packaging, more than 410 million pounds of waste could be diverted from landfill to compost, the company claims. It adds that more than 8.4 billion of those plastic containers currently end up being thrown away rather than recycled or reused, at a cost of $10.9bn to the US economy.