By Chris Morrish
For a long time sugarcane crop has been harvested purely for its sweet sucrose. But now, with the increased development into sustainable bio-fuels, such as bio-ethanol and bio-diesel, demand for the fibrous grass has sharply increased.
And this is great. The sugarcane based products have a comparatively low environmental impact when compared to competing synthetic materials. The plants themselves even aid in offsetting processing emissions by absorbing CO2 as they mature. However, like with most things there is an element of waste.
This fibrous mess of crushed cane, that is the by-product of sugarcane, is called bagasse. It has a plethora of potential constructive uses so it is somewhat tragic that a large percentage of bagasse is burned as fuel as well as being left to rot.
Bagasse can be roughly chopped and pressed into chipboard that has comparable mechanical properties to plywood. It can be shredded further into a fine puree that can be moulded into packaging or even cutlery and plate ware as an alternative to polystyrene. It’s also used for paper, cardboard, laminates, flooring – the list goes on.
Bagasse is 100% biodegradable and if you opt for steam and compression manufacturing processes instead of adhesives you get an environmental gold star.