Gould’s goanna

Gould’s goanna is commonly eaten in Indigenous communities, but can contain high levels of rat poison.Source: Robert A. Davis, Author

Introduced rats and mice have probably troubled most of us at some time in our lives. These pesky invasive rodents are found around the world. We usually target them with toxic baits to stop them spreading disease and causing environmental or commercial damage.

In some instances rat baits are useful. They can protect crops, reduce the spread of disease, keep the contents of your pantry from disappearing, or even protect endangered wildlife on islands where rats have invaded.

These baits are freely available to homeowners and are used liberally by pest controllers. However, they have potentially deadly consequences for native predatory animals that eat poisoned rats and mice.

Our new research shows that this secondary poisoning may be worsened in Australia by reptiles, which are extremely effective at spreading these poisons up the food chain – a process that may even have consequences for human health.

While little is known about how well reptiles tolerate rodent baits, several studies have suggested that at least some reptiles are extremely resistant. In a toxicity study using one lizard species, all of the test subjects survived an incredibly high dose of the strongest poison on the market – over 4,000 times the poison per body weight needed to kill most rats.

This is probably good news for the lizards, but eating poison-supercharged reptiles may be a serious concern for their predators – and for us.

Humans eat lizards too

During a rat eradication program in the Montebello Islands, one goanna species was seen eating poisoned rats – without apparent ill effect – to the point that the green dye used in the bait was visible in their droppings. Unfortunately, this species of goanna is an important traditional food in Indigenous communities throughout Australia. To make matters worse, these poisons usually build up in commonly eaten parts of the goannas, like fat and liver tissue.

The risks associated with sublethal human exposure to rodent baits are not well known. However, recent studies in some wildlife species show that even mild chronic exposure to the longer-lasting poisons can lead to dangerous changes in the immune system.

With so many unknowns in a potentially dangerous situation, more research is urgently needed. We need to know how often and how severely the reptiles that humans eat are exposed to poison. Otherwise, some Indigenous people may have to choose between losing traditional hunting practices and risking exposure to rat poison.

Poison in the food web

In our research, we reviewed all published examples of wildlife deaths from exposure to rat bait. We found that rat poison has killed members of at least 32 native wildlife species in Australia. There are probably many more; only a few studies have looked at this problem in Australia, compared with other parts of the world.

We found that a small species of owl called the Southern Boobook is exposed to rat poison frequently, and sometimes lethally, in developed areas of Western Australia. Scavengers and prolific predators of rodents are likely to be even worse off – and these predators include a variety of threatened or endangered species such as Masked Owls, Tasmanian Devils and various species of quolls.

Most deaths will occur far from the original bait, as the poison travels through other species in the food web to reach its final destination. Without a better understanding of how baits affect Australian predators, we are unlikely to appreciate the scale of this invisible threat.

At present, powerful rat poisons are available at most supermarkets and hardware stores. The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority is now reviewing how these are regulated because of concerns about human health and impacts on wildlife populations.

Other countries like the United States and Canada have already restricted the stronger poisons to licensed pest controllers. They have banned outdoor use and require lockable bait boxes to keep children and pets away from baits.

These steps might not be enough to overcome Australia’s unique risks, but allowing the current situation to continue is guaranteed to result in more poisonings of wildlife – and possibly unseen and unstudied effects on humans too.

This article was originally published at The Conversation.
By Michael Lohr, PhD Student – Wildlife Ecology, Edith Cowan University and Robert Davis Senior Lecturer in Vertebrate Biology, Edith Cowan University
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BioCane Packaging

BioCane PackagingSource: BioPak

BioPak’s BioCane packaging is made from reclaimed sugarcane pulp, also known as bagasse, a rapidly renewable resource and a by-product from the sugar production. It has now been certified commercially AND home compostable to EN13432, AS4736 and AS5810 standards, and can be recycled in the paper co-mingled recycling stream. While there are other sugarcane packaging options on the market, BioCane is the only range that is certified home compostable in Australia and New Zealand – making it a more sustainable replacement for the ubiquitous plastic takeaway container.

Degree of innovation

BioCane packaging is made from reclaimed sugarcane pulp, also known as bagasse, a rapidly renewable resource and a by-product of the sugar production.

BioCane packaging is sturdy and provides a moisture and grease resistant surface that allows the packaging to retain liquids and food for a longer period of time. Plus, it can come in any size or shape thanks to our in-house design team who assists our customers in producing customised sugarcane packaging.

Benefits and features

The BioCane range includes bowls, plates, trays, containers, clamshells, and sauce cups – offering a more sustainable replacement for conventional plastic and polystyrene takeaway containers and single-use foodservice packaging.

They’re microwave safe and oven proof up to 220°C for 20 minutes, and refrigerator and freezer safe. BioCane packaging is sturdy and versatile and can handle a wide variety of hot and cold foods, and the bowls and sauce cups have a secure, leak-proof lid – making the BioCane range perfect for food delivery services and takeaway. 

Plus, they’re certified home and commercially compostable to EN13432, AS4736 and AS5810 standards, and can be recycled in the paper co-mingled recycling stream. While there are other sugarcane packaging options on the market, BioCane is the only range that is certified home compostable in Australia and New Zealand.

Design and visual appeal

BioCane packaging is great for food presentation. Sturdy and heat resistant, it retains integrity and ensures food is preserved for the end user – making it an excellent option for food outlets utilising delivery services like UberEats.

The range includes plates, trays, clamshells, and rectangle containers with compartments so elements of the dish can be separated ensuring food presentation is preserved, and sauces can be kept separate.

But does it really look good? The proof is in the pudding – or tacos, in this case. We have been working with Mad Mex since 2014 and this year we helped them design and produce a completely customised DIY Taco Kit to ensure the customer experience of Mad Mex tacos was as good at home as it is in the restaurant.

Effectiveness, functionality, and practicality

BioCane packaging is extremely durable, lightweight, and inexpensive. It can be heated up or frozen, has no taste, odour or harmful additives, and is moisture and grease resistant.

This makes it an ideal alternative to traditional polystyrene food packaging, perfect for quick service restaurants, takeaway outlets, and food delivery services.


We offer great value to customers with pricing comparable to other sugarcane packaging suppliers. Plus, what could be more valuable than replacing plastic packaging with certified compostable packaging?

Relevance and satisfaction

When we buy a product we also buy any waste associated with the product. In New Zealand approximately 252,000 tonnes of plastic are sent to landfill each year. 

While disposable food containers offer convenience and a safe and hygienic vessel for takeaway food, the kind made from conventional plastics are unsustainable and pollute the environment at every stage in their life cycle.

Thankfully, as support for the zero waste movement grows, and more people become aware of the principles of a circular economy, the need for a sustainable alternative to plastic food containers is clear.

BioCane packaging aligns with the principles of a circular economy, removing the need for plastic packaging to be created as well as diverting waste from landfill into composting facilities where it has a positive outcome.

If a large music festival serving 100,000 meals replaced all plastic containers and used BioCane instead, it would save 3 tonnes of plastic – that’s the weight of an elephant.

Shelf life and storage

BioCane packaging has an indefinite shelf-life.

Distribution and availability

We know how important it is to maintain sufficient inventory. That’s why all orders are dispatched on the same day they are received. Plus, we offer free freight to most metro areas and subsidised freight to remote locations.


As a certified B Corporation, BioPak have met verified higher levels of social and environmental performance, transparency and accountability.

BioCane packaging offers a more sustainable replacement for the ubiquitous plastic takeaway container. It’s made from reclaimed sugarcane pulp – a by-product of the sugar refining industry that would have otherwise been burned. Transforming an output that is currently considered waste into a valuable input for another process provides significant environmental benefits.

Our BioCane production facility is certified to ISO 14001 – Environmental Management Systems. Like all our products, BioCane is certified carbon neutral, home and commercially compostable.

But not all councils offer commercial composting facilities. So, as part of our commitment to making a positive difference, we have also launched our own composting service for food service packaging – currently, we are in Auckland and are close to launching our Wellington service.

The BioPak Compost Service is designed to divert food scraps and food service packaging from landfill and completely close the loop of our products’ life cycle, ensuring our products are being turned back into nutrient-rich soil, instead of ending up in landfill.

This article was originally published at BioPak.
On 30th of May 2018 – BioPak news.
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