Sugarcane is one of the most diverse plants to be found anywhere in the world. From producing molasses, to being the key ingredient for rum-making, it’s undoubtedly a wonder crop!
And like the gift that keeps on giving, sugarcane also provides another useful byproduct called bagasse.
What is bagasse?
Bagasse is the leftover fibres that remain after sugarcane stalks have been crushed to extract their juice. It’s primarily found in countries that produce a high volume of sugar, such as Vietnam, Thailand and Brazil. Originally seen as a waste product, the perception of bagasse has changed.
A versatile material, bagasse is highly sustainable, and The Rum Ration has put together a list of four reasons why it’s good for the environment.
- It’s biodegradable
- An excellent biofuel
- Handy for homes
- An alternative to paper
1. It’s biodegradable
One of the major benefits of bagasse is that it’s biodegradable, creating minimal impact on the environment and takes little energy to produce.
With it being plant-based, the material breaks down quickly. Depending on the conditions, bagasse can break down in a week, making it an excellent form of compost. As a compost, the bagasse can be recycled and used for growing other plants and vegetables.
2. An excellent biofuel
Bagasse offers great potential as a renewable energy source. Often used a primary fuel for sugar mills, the material has been identified as a source of cellulosic ethanol. This is ethanol that’s been produced from cellulosic sugars and is both an affordable and green source of energy.
When a large amount of bagasse is burned it provides a great amount of heat energy and offers a secondary use for cogeneration. This involves heat and electrical energy working in tandem to power a structure, making bagasse a doubly important biofuel.
3. Handy for the home
Among its many uses, bagasse is an excellent addition to a sustainable household. It’s used in the production of tableware like bowels and plates and as an alternative to plywood.
Sturdy and strong, bagasse products last for several years and they are easy to clean. This is especially useful when eating, as bagasse tableware is water repellent and grease proof. So, you’ll be able to eat hot meals without having to worry about any damage done to the utensils.
4. An alternative to paper
Another use for bagasse is in the production of paper and tissue products. The process for converting bagasse into paper was invented in 1937 in a sugar mill in Peru by the W.R. Grace Company. The brand bought an old paper mill in New Jersey, shipped bagasse from Peru to test out the process and found it to be successful. From that point on, bagasse became a useful material for creating newspapers.
The reason why bagasse is great for paper production is because it can be turned into pulp. The pulp can have a low tensile or high tensile index depending on whether it’s treated or untreated. A higher bulk improves the overall printability of paper.