Compostable Food Packaging: Everything You Need to Know About Sugarcane Bagasse

September 23, 2022

What Is Sugarcane Bagasse?

Sugarcane is primarily found in tropical regions, as this is where it thrives. It belongs to the genus of sweet grasses and may grow to approximately 5 metres, with a stem diameter of up to 4.5 centimetres. Sugarcane is a widely used resource for the production and manufacturing of retail sugar around the world.

Sugarcane bagasse is a dry and pulpy byproduct of sugarcane after it is crushed and drained of its juices to produce sugar. It does not require additional resources for production, such as land and energy.

Bagasse also does not contribute further to deforestation. Its appearance and texture are similar to cardboard or paper due to its high cellulose content. In comparison to growing trees, which usually take 20 years, sugarcane can be grown in less than a year, making bagasse a relatively renewable resource.

What Are the Benefits and Features of Sugarcane Bagasse Products?

Compostable

Sugarcane bagasse is compostable at home and commercially. It can decompose in as early as 4 weeks under appropriate conditions. Before composting, it is best to shred the bagasse products as this would considerably accelerate the process.

Sustainable and Eco-Friendly

As a byproduct of sugar manufacturing, bagasse does not necessitate cutting trees or affect forests or agricultural lands. It is renewable and requires little energy for production compared to its other counterparts.

Durable

Because of its innate fibrous and coarse features, sugarcane bagasse packaging is more resilient, durable, and of higher quality than most alternatives.

No Aftertaste or Food Contamination

Sugarcane bagasse does not contain harmful components that may contaminate and affect the food’s flavour or aroma unlike alternative packaging, which has a distinct odour that can often change how the food tastes when consumed.

Excellent Insulation and Thermal Properties

Bagasse packaging and containers ensure contents are kept warmer for longer periods. It is also suitable for temperatures between -25°C to 100°C, making it microwave- and freezer-safe.

A Better Alternative to Plastic Packaging

Plastics are derived from petroleum, a resource that is well-known for its negative environmental impact. It is non-renewable and consumes a great deal of energy during production. The most alarming characteristic of plastics is their inability to biodegrade naturally. This has led to an accumulation of plastic garbage in our landfills, oceans, and waterways.

Waste segregation, proper disposal, and recycling are ways being implemented to prevent plastic waste from contaminating and destroying our environment. However, over 12.7 million tonnes of plastic still end up in the oceans yearly, causing devastation to marine ecosystems.

In contrast, bagasse is a natural substance that is 100% compostable under the right conditions. This material decomposes in the soil and returns to the earth, leaving no detrimental effects on the environment.

What Are the Different Uses of Sugarcane Bagasse?

Substitute for Wood

Similar to wood, bagasse also yields a strong pulp that is ideally suited for paper, newspaper, cardboard, plywood, fibreboard, furniture, and biodegradable plastics production. It can also be used to generate furfural, a clear, colourless liquid utilised to produce chemical products such as nylon and solvents.

Fuel Source for Sugar Mills

Bagasse is frequently used as a fuel source for sugar mills. When bagasse is incinerated in significant amounts, it generates sufficient heat energy to meet the requirements of a sugar mill. It can also be used as supplementary fuel in the cogeneration process to provide electricity that is potentially sold to the consumer electrical grid.

Possible Source for Bioenergy

In renewable energy generation, numerous studies are being conducted on using bagasse as a biofuel. It has the potential to become a sustainable alternative to corn as the source of the biofuel ethanol. Since bagasse is cellulose-rich, it can produce cellulosic ethanol in commercial amounts.

Sugarcane bagasse’s potential in ethanol production is also supported by research. However, its compatibility with conventional engines still requires further exploration. Another drawback of bagasse as a biofuel is its high moisture content, which may pose additional challenges when used as a fuel.

Potential Animal Feed Alternative

Sugarcane bagasse and waste are not fed to animals since they are neither digestible nor nutritious in their natural state. However, through technological advancement, institutions continuously innovate to turn this byproduct into a potential source of animal feed.

By undergoing a treatment process and combining sugarcane bagasse with probiotic and enzyme supplements, the structure and biochemical composition of bagasse can be altered to improve its nutritional value, transforming it into a high-quality food source for chicken, pigs, and cattle.

How Is Sugarcane Bagasse Produced?

Bagasse production is straightforward.

Once bagasse fibres are extracted from sugarcane, they are thoroughly mixed with water to remove any sugar residue until the compounds form a pulp and are treated further. This phase aids in preparing the bagasse for subsequent processes.

Bagasse is stored differently, depending on its final purpose.

In electricity production, bagasse must be kept moist using a mild exothermic process that gradually dries the fibres over time.

In manufacturing paper and pulp, bagasse must stay wet to facilitate the removal of pith fibres. These fibres may impede paper manufacturing due to their coarse characteristics.

Generally, dried bagasse is a composition of 45–55% cellulose, 20–25% hemicellulose, 18–24% lignin, 1–4% ash, and 1% wax.

Sugarcane bagasse is the future of sustainability. By choosing to use this alternative for food packaging, you are actively participating in reducing the harmful effects of plastics on our environment.

Now is the best time to go green. Visit our website and learn more about how our product line can help you make better choices to save our planet and make our world a better place.

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