(Nov. 4) The women of Oaxaca, Mexico, have woven it into baskets for thousands of years. The ancient Egyptians threaded it into ropes.

Now Shannon Boase is using it to package produce.

Palm fiber, left behind after a palm fruit harvest for oil, is a renewable resource that harvesters traditionally burn or throw into a landfill.

Boase, however, decided to use it as produce packaging that a consumer can throw into the compost pile or the recycling bin.

Her Vancouver-based company, Earthcycle Packaging Ltd., officially will unveil the packaging at Booth 4519 at the Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit Nov. 4-8 at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta.

The packaging already has made believers out of a major North American fresh produce company. The Oppenheimer Group, Vancouver, has agreed to use Earthcycle’s packaging for its cluster and beefsteak tomatoes, peppers and kiwifruit.

Cathie MacDonald, packaging and marketing development manager for The Oppenheimer Group, said the packaging fits in with Oppenheimer’s objectives of providing value-added solutions and building an organic category.

“We thought the packaging might work well for our organic line, especially because it breaks down to nothing very quickly when properly composted,” MacDonald said. “We started looking at the various types of packs that were available, and were impressed by the way our products look when packaged in Earthcycle.”

After Fresh Summit, Earthcycle and The Oppenheimer Group will conduct market trials.

“We’re looking at ‘eco-friendly’ markets with home composting rates higher than the U.S. national average of 7%, like Portland, Ore.; Seattle, Wash.; and Boston, Mass., as well as Toronto, Ontario, and Vancouver, B.C.,” MacDonald said. “While we believe the Earthcycle packaging will appeal to retailers that serve these markets, we will also look beyond them for broader distribution.”

Oppenheimer officials did not elaborate on what volume the company initially will ship in this packaging.

Boase founded Earthcycle in October 2004 after she discovered palm fiber while working for a commercial technology fund for the Malaysian government. She spent the past year researching and developing palm fiber-based products.

For more information about Earthcycle, visit www.earthcycle.com.