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Cane Fibre Bagasse Field

What is Bagasse Cane Fibre?

Bagasse, also known as sugarcane pulp, is a fibrous material left behind in the sugarcane harvesting process. It is the fibrous matter that is left over after the production of sugarcane, sorghum or agave.  Historically, bagasse was treated as unusable and thrown away, burned or left in open piles to rot. It was not seen as a useful by-product. Fortunately, things have changed and bagasse is being seen as a valuable, renewable resource.

Bagasse is currently being used in a number of applications worldwide, including power production, tree-free paper production, cane fibre biodegradable labels and in some countries it is being investigated as a base for livestock feed. It has a multitude of uses and is especially valuable in the foodservice packaging industry as a sustainable alternative to conventional plastic packaging.

Bagasse sugarcane pulp is the environmentally responsible paper alternative

Learn all about the bagasse material including how it is made, plus the environmental and economic advantages of bagasse.

Bagasse, otherwise known as sugarcane pulp, is a by-product of the sugarcane industry. It is the fibrous substance that is left behind after the juice of the sugarcane plant is harvested. Up until recently, bagasse was usually disposed of or left to rot. But today, it is used as a renewable resource for the production of paper products and as a fuel for factories.

How is bagasse produced?

Bagasse is used for multiple purposes, but there is a specific method involved in the production of tree-free packaging products. After the sugarcane plant has been harvested and the liquid has been extracted, the leftover substance (bagasse) is kept wet and then blended with water to form a pulp.

Additives are combined with the pulp, and it is then pressed into the shape of the packaging product required by applying pressure at high temperature. The result is a sturdy, microwavable, compostable food packaging product made from plant-based, renewable resources.

What is bagasse used for?

Bagasse is burned as fuel in the sugarcane mill or used as a source of cellulose for manufacturing animal feeds. Paper is produced from bagasse in several Latin American countries, in the Middle East, and in sugar-producing countries that are deficient in forest resources.

Bagasse used to be regarded as a waste and burnt in fields causing pollution. However, scientific advancements have helped in identifying the several uses of this material that include the following:

  • It has been used as a fuel source in sugar mills because of the heat energy it produces. Modern cogeneration technologies are being developed to produce from 200 to 300 kWh of electricity for every tonne of bagasse material. Researchers are also investigating the possibility of it being considered as a biofuel.
  • Bagasse is being used widely by food distributors in London and other cities because of its eco-friendly properties.
  • It has been used to produce pulp and board because of its suitability for printing and writing. It is often used for making boxes and boards.
  • Processed bagasse has also been found to be beneficial for human health when included as part of the regular diet.
  • It is also used to manufacture biodegradable and compostable bagasse labels.

Power Production.

Bagasse is being used as a fuel source for sugar mills; when burned in quantity, it produces sufficient heat energy to supply all the needs of a typical sugar mill with energy to spare. It is currently being used around the world as a fuel source to provide both heat energy and electricity. This electricity is sold back to the consumer electricity grid.

There has been some debate over the resulting CO2 emissions that such a power plant generates. However, overall the CO2 emissions are equal to the amount of CO2 that the sugarcane plant absorbed from the atmosphere during its growing phase, which makes the greenhouse gas effects neutral. In many countries, sugar factories significantly contribute green power to the overall electricity supply.

One of America’s largest sugar companies (Florida Crystals), owns and operates the largest biomass power plant in North America. The facility uses bagasse to generate power to its milling and refining operations as well as renewable electricity for nearly 60,000 homes. The fibrous material called “bagasse” is repurposed two ways. First, their renewable energy facility uses it to generate the energy required to transform their sugarcane into the various products they sell. Then, any remaining bagasse is used to create eco-friendly plates, bowls and containers. These compostable products compost in just 84 days in a commercial composting facility, unlike conventional plasticware that can linger in the environment for centuries.

Tree-free Paper and Paper Products.

Bagasse makes an excellent substitution for so many products that have conventionally made from trees (wood pulp or fibre). Take, for example, a normal paper plate that you would use for a picnic. Trees are plants and they can be replanted, but it is a long process for that tree to grow to the point that it can be harvested. When we remove a forest we also destroy the entire ecosystem. By using the by-products of agricultural crops instead for paper production, it only takes a single growing season to renew those materials and we have far less of an impact on the ecosystem. The destruction of our forests for commercial paper stock just doesn’t make sense – we are losing our forests and rain forests at a rate of 80,000 acres per day. That paper plate also has a petroleum coating on it to make it more resistant to greasy or wet foods. That means that it’s much harder to recycle and renders it non-compostable.

What about plastic or foam Styrofoam plates? Well, first of all, you are using a product made from petroleum which is a non renewable resource. Right now we need that petroleum for power and to move our planes, trains and automobiles. The problems with petroleum extraction to make plastic and polystyrene go even deeper, including oil spills, landfill failures, greenhouse gas emissions and the growing problems related to fracking. Bagasse, however, is being recognised as a hugely beneficial alternative to felling trees and extracting nonrenewable resources.

Around 5–10% of paper production worldwide is now produced from renewable plant based biomass. One of the most common sources of this plant material is bagasse. Paper production, including biodegradable cane fibre paper label material, is the second-largest revenue stream from bagasse. Due to the ease with which bagasse can be annually produced, pulped, molded and composted, it is quickly becoming a renewable solution to the deforestation and our rapidly depleting fossil fuel reserves. We believe that substituting readily renewable agricultural by-products for commercial forestry practices or petroleum production just makes good sense.

Is bagasse eco friendly?

One of the best and most eco-friendly options is bagasse. Bagasse is the waste from sugar cane plants left over after the sugar has been extracted. Not only are bagasse packaging items and bagasse labels better for the environment because they are biodegradable and compostable, they are aesthetically pleasing too.

Bagasse is naturally grease and cut resistant, microwavable, freezer safe and can easily withstand temperatures of 200 degrees fahrenheit. Because it is a plant based product, it is easily compostable and welcomed in commercial composting facilities as a carbon introduction vehicle in the composting process. Most bagasse can be home composted too. Bagasse is therefore well positioned as an excellent alternative to conventional paper, plastic and foam based products in a growing number of products including tissue, newsprint, tableware, writing paper and a number of other consumer products.

Environmental advantages of bagasse

Bagasse is biodegradable under commercial composting conditions and will breakdown within 30-90 days (source). While many paper-based products can also be composted, the advantage of bagasse is that growing it does not have the same environmental impact as paper, which comes from trees. Forests store enormous amounts of carbon. When forests are destroyed, that carbon is released to the atmosphere, accelerating global warming. Deforestation accounts for around 10% of total heat-trapping emissions.

Trees take a long time to grow to maturity before they can be harvested. In order to harvest them large areas of land are cleared, making it a resource-intensive process. Sugarcane, on the other hand, can be harvested annually, making it a rapidly renewable resource.

Bagasse: a plant-based fibre product

Unlike plastic or polystyrene products, bagasse products are commercially and home compostable. Under composting conditions, bagasse will break down into a nutrient-rich compost that can be used as fertiliser and soil conditioner.

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