Being environmentally friendly or sustainable is a novel concept that most of us only committed to in the past decade or so. There are very few century-old companies or towns in Australia that can lay claim to being “green” since their inception.  

First surveyed on the banks of the Burnett River in 1868, Bundaberg’s story of origin is the ultimate tale of “trash to treasure”. The sugarcane producing powerhouse had a very serious problem on its hands: what to do with a massive surplus of molasses. In 1888 they turned the by-product into rum and Australia’s most iconic drink was born. 

Today, Bundaberg Distilling Company processes 15,000 tonnes of molasses from the neighbouring Bundaberg Millaquin Sugar Mill to make about 10 million litres of rum per year, but their eco-credibility doesn’t end there.

Ty McKeown, Bundaberg Rum’s Governance and Compliance Manager, said the company was continually making changes and setting new targets to minimise the impact their operations and products have on the environment.  

“We source the steam for our distillation process from the Millaquin Mill, who use bagasse as a bio fuel to generate green steam,” Ty said. “Almost 70 per cent of our total energy usage here is renewable, so only about 30 per cent comes from the grid, but our target is to be net carbon neutral by 2030. We’re looking at a mix of technologies to help us achieve that, including solar and hydrogen.”

They’ve got a proven track record when it comes to targets. Measuring against its 2007 baseline carbon emissions, Bundaberg Distilling Company’s parent company Diageo exceeded its 2020 global target of a 50 per cent reduction by 17 per cent. That’s a 67 per cent total reduction in direct carbon emissions over just 13 years. 

The amount of water Bundaberg Distilling Company uses to make one litre of rum has reduced by 35 per cent in the last five years. Ty said 100 per cent of waste water from the distillery was treated and sent back to sugarcane farmers for irrigation. “We also produce a significant amount of by-product, known as dunder, which is used as fertiliser on local farms – it’s a truly circular economy,” he said. 

Ty said Diageo had set ambitious targets for sustainable packaging, aiming to have 60 per cent of packaging made from recycled materials and 100 per cent of packaging able to be recycled by consumers by 2030. “We also have a zero waste to landfill policy, where our waste is either recycled or sent to Brisbane for energy recovery.” 

A chemist by trade, Ty grew up in Bundaberg. After a few years studying and working in Brisbane, he returned to Bundaberg to raise a family. “Bundaberg Rum is a fantastic story of sustainability, and I’m proud to be working for a company that is committed to leaving a legacy,” he said. “Here we are, on the Great Barrier Reef with Fraser Island on our doorstep, and I want to protect that for my kids and future generations.”


Bundaberg Rum Distillery Visitor Experience Hills Street, East Bundaberg www.bundabergrum.com.au