With the spotlight on Tasmania's salmon and fish farming industry in recent weeks, those contributing to and benefiting from the industry must be also heard.
There's no denying the multi-million dollar aquaculture sector directly employs thousands of Tasmanians, but what is less obvious are those who indirectly benefit and contribute to the growth of the Tasmanian economy, as a result of this industry.
Australian owned family business Polyfoam is a striking example. The business began in a rented tin shed at Castle Forbes Bay in the state's South in 1985, entirely to support the newly-created aquaculture industry by manufacturing expanded polystyrene fish boxes.
Without the fish farming sector, the business may never have been born, but it has grown to support not only aquaculture but agriculture, construction, wine and of great importance recently, the need for cold chain transport of medical supplies such as COVID-19 vaccines.
There are no proven alternatives to EPS in cold chain transport for food or medicines.
EPS is a lightweight, rigid, plastic foam produced from solid polystyrene beads, which through a steamed expansion process, forms a perfectly closed cellular structure, that is 98 per cent air, has excellent shock absorbing qualities, is lightweight, 100 per cent recyclable and thermally superior. It is the only practical choice for the cool chain export of seafood products, a critical part of the supply chain, developed here in Tasmania for Tasmanian producers.
As a key manufacturer of expanded polystyrene boxes for these valuable and expanding industries, Polyfoam has overseen the expansion of its business across five Australian states.
It has grown to include purpose-built manufacturing facilities developed at Bridgewater in Tasmania as well as in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. There is also a joint operation in Adelaide.
The factories have been built from the ground up by Polyfoam, in strategic locations to access natural gas and major highway routes.
Polyfoam is continually reinvesting in new equipment and products.
In Tasmania Polyfoam employs 29 people with a further 150 jobs supported at Polyfoam's interstate operations.
On the back of the demand and need to secure on-island supply of the EPS products, Polyfoam plans to build a 4000 square metre state-of-the-art production facility at Westbury.
COVID-19 highlighted the need for local manufacturing to secure our supply chains.
Customers such as Huon Aquaculture and Tasmanian Seafoods have both testified to the need for a regular and reliable supply of fish boxes and cool chain packaging.
This northern manufacturing centre will mean the company can fully supply its Tasmanian market without the need to import products from its interstate factories.
This includes introducing the development of block moulding products to the Westbury facility. This is the first time this will be manufactured in Tasmania.
The $8 million development will employ 50 people during construction and at full production will create 20 full-time jobs.
It is shovel-ready, has all necessary approvals, and a local construction company ready to start work.
The development of this facility will ensure Tasmania can become a world leader in EPS recycling and participate in the circular economy.
Like glass and aluminium, EPS is a necessary product, but despite being 100 per cent recyclable, much of the EPS waste in Tasmania currently goes into landfill.
This facility will significantly reduce this, with Polyfoam pioneering technology which will remanufacture waste EPS into pods for the construction sector.
This will see Tasmania leading the world in closed-loop circular economy manufacturing of EPS and enhance our clean, green image.
The Westbury development will ensure the continued growth of key economic sectors in northern Tasmania including aquaculture and agriculture.
As has been the case for 40 years, Polyfoam is driven to support Tasmanian businesses and local jobs.
The continued growth and expansion of the company is a testament to its commitment to Tasmania and ability to deliver on projects of significant size and investment.
The fish farming industry was the reason the business began and its role and impact on the growth of Polyfoam and many other Tasmanian small businesses cannot be underestimated or ignored.
- Bruce Pickett is the chair of Polyfoam Australia. He has more than 40 years experience in the industry.