what the heck is bagasse?
What is Bagasse?
Let’s start with the easy stuff. It's pronounced: /bəˈɡæs/ bə-gas.
What is it? Bagasse is a plant fiber. More specifically, it is the
fibrous matter that is left over after the production of sugarcane,
sorghum or agave. So in a word, it is bio-waste. Historically, bagasse
was treated as unusable and disposed of - 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.
It is currently being used in a number of applications worldwide, including power production, tree-free paper production and in some
countries it is being investigated as a viable base for livestock feed.
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; which is sold back to the consumer electricity grid.
There has been some debate over the resulting carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions that such a power plant generates; but 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 (such as Australia), 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.
Tree-free Paper and Paper Products.
Bagasse makes an excellent substitution for so many products that have conventionally made from trees (wood pulp or fiber). Let’s use an example to demonstrate our point - 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. Let’s face it - 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. Oh and guess
what? That paper plate 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.
So what if you use 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 - think oil spills,
landfill failures, greenhouse gas emissions and the growing problems
related to hydraulic horizontal drilling for natural gas (aka fracking). And those are just a few of the environmental concerns. Add to that the
growing body of evidence citing related health issues from toxins from petroleum-based products and
you will quickly realize plastics and foam are not the answer. Bagasse,
on the other hand, is being recognized worldwide as a hugely beneficial
alternative to felling our trees and extracting our nonrenewable
Around 5–10% of paper production worldwide is now produced from
renewable plant based biomass - not trees. One of the most common
sources of this plant material is bagasse. Paper production is the
second-largest revenue stream from bagasse, the largest being the
production of power previously mentioned.
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.
Bagasse - It’s Renewable & Compostable
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 - as long as the end user chops or shreds the product and uses
proper composting measures. 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.
We highly recommend bagasse to all of our customers. Talk to us about converting to
bagasse. You can help save our planet - one paper plate at a time!