Sugarcane & Bagasse
When sugar cane is pressed, fibrous remains of so-called bagasse are produced. What would be waste for some is a natural by-product for us: bagasse is used to make bagasse dishes (also calles sugar cane dishes) using water and natural binders.
What is sugar cane?
Sugar cane (Saccharum officinarum) belongs to the family of sweet grasses and grows in the tropical and subtropical climate zones of our earth. The plants grow about 3 to 6 meters high and their stems have a diameter of 2-4.5 cm. It is exactly here, inside their stalks, that the plant's special feature lies: the sugar (mainly sucrose). This is not only the reason for its name, but also for its popularity and fame in the world: it is the most important supplier of raw materials for the production of (household) sugar. For this purpose the sugar cane plants are harvested, collected and then pressed in order to process the juice obtained into cane sugar or sugar cane juice. From 100 tons of sugar cane, approximately 10 tons of sugar and 34 tons of bagasse, which is valuable for us, are produced. But instead of burning the "waste product", our producers upgrade the material and produce environmentally friendly disposable products.
What is bagasse?
Bagasse is the fibrous plant residue that remains in sugar production after the sugar canes have been pressed. They usually consist of 40-60% cellulose, 20-30% hemicelluloses and about 20% lignin. Bagasse is mainly found in countries where a lot of sugar is produced, such as Brazil, China or Thailand.
Although bagasse is a so-called by-product, it remains a waste product for many. In the past, it was primarily used as a fuel for production facilities. Even today, part of the bagasse still ends up in the kilns of the factories. But since people started to recycle materials, bagasse has also been upgraded as a material. Today it is used for the production of building materials, packaging materials and disposable tableware. And in the paper industry too, sugar cane fibres are already partly replacing paper products made of wood, such as napkins, toilet paper and cardboard. Im Folgenden erklären wir anhand einzelner Schritte, wie aus einfachen Bagasse-Fasern nachhaltige greenbox Einwegartikel werden.
Produktionsschritte für Bagasse-Produkte
- The remaining sugar cane fibres are stored wet to remove short marrow fibres and sugar residues, as these can hinder further processing.
- The bagasse is mixed with water in a mixer until it becomes a mushy mass.
- Natural binders and biodegradable bleaching agents are added. In this step further additives can be added optionally. However, as we want to have a product that is as natural as possible, our manufacturers refrain from this step!
- The pulpy bagasse mass is poured into a mould and pressed into the desired shape using high pressure and high temperatures.
- Done! The greenbox plates, bowls and menu trays are ready for transport to you and are looking forward to use in your company.
Special characteristics of bagasse
- Very stable, robust and not easily bendable
- Has good thermal characteristics: suitable for temperatures from -25 °C to 220 °C
- Water-resistant and greaseproof: Also suitable for hot and very oily or fatty dishes
- Fully biodegradable and compostable
- CO2 neutral disposal
Sustainability: From nature back to nature
The sugar cane plant is a very fast growing resource for which no forests have to be cut down. As a by-product of sugar production, bagasse does not require any additional cultivable land and therefore has no impact on our forests. On the contrary: it is even a sustainable and environmentally friendly alternative for paper production, because much less energy is used to produce bagasse paper than wood fibres. Products made from sugar cane end up in the garbage after use, sometimes even in the wild. However, thanks to their biodegradability (certified according to EN13432 or US ASTM), the products decompose relatively quickly and turn into soil. This soil can in turn be used as fertiliser for new plants and so the cycle is complete.
But as already mentioned, bagasse is not always used to make disposable products. Factories often use bagasse as fuel. However, this process is much more environmentally friendly than burning fossil fuels, as fossil fuels not only produce CO2 but also toxic pollutants such as carbon monoxide and particulate matter. Burning bagasse, on the other hand, is CO2 neutral, as only as much CO2 is released as the plants have absorbed during their growth.