Factsheet: Bagasse

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What is bagasse and what can it be used for? All your questions on bagasse answered.

What is bagasse?

Bagasse, also known as sugar cane pulp, is the waste product of sugar cane production: this fibrous waste remains after the juice has been squeezed from the cane sugar stalks. It looks and feels like cardboard or paper and is often white in colour.

The reason it looks like paper is because it has a high level of  cellulose (around 50%)  and this helps make it perfect for writing paper—it actually requires less bleaching to make bright white paper than regular paper.

In comparison to the many years it takes trees to grow, sugarcane can be grown in six months meaning it’s relatively easy to renew.

 

Bagasse production
Bagasse is the waste product of sugar cane product, photo by David Clode

What is the difference between paper and bagasse?

Mostly it’s just the plant the material comes from.

When processed into a paper-like material, bagasse looks, feels and acts pretty similar to paper. The main difference is actually that instead of pulping wood from trees, it’s formed out of a waste product from sugar production.

This difference is important when thinking about how sustainable bagasse versus paper is, as bagasse comes from a resource that renews reasonably quickly. It can take just six months for sugarcane to be grown ready to harvest, whereas trees and forests take a significantly longer time–on the scale of many years–to grow back.

Why does bagasse make good food packaging and tableware material?

Bagasse is suitable for both hot and cold products, meaning it’s very useful for food packaging and tableware. Additionally it can be put in the freezer as well as the microwave. It’s water resistant, suitable for greasy foods and suitable for hot applications (up to 120℃).

Bagasse packaging
Bagasse packaging is suitable for both hot and cold applications

 

What is the best end-of-life for bagasse?

Industrial composting.

Bagasse can be sent to an industrial composting facility alongside food waste, to be composted under specific conditions.

However, you have to make sure these facilities exist locally and double check to see if they accept bagasse products (usually alongside standard food and organic waste).

 

 

Does bagasse decompose in the environment?

No, not really.

If you leave bagasse packaging in the environment, it won’t quickly degrade. So actually, bagasse represents the same sort of litter as the more widespread packaging materials.

We must collect bagasse separately from other traditional packaging materials so it can be composted in specialised facilities. Under these controlled conditions of heat and pressure, the products will break down into organic matter so it can be responsibly returned to the earth in the form of compost.

 

Do bagasse products contain other chemicals?

PFOA chemicals (perfluorooctanoic acid) have commonly been added to bagasse or moulded fibre food packaging as it gives the packaging resistance to heat, moisture, oil and grease.

However, any food packaging materials containing PFOA, or PFOA-related compounds, were banned from use and sale  in the UK and EU from 4th July 2020.

Read more about PFOA chemicals and their ban here.

More questions?

If you have any questions about bagasse products or other sustainable materials, please get in touch with us, we’d be happy to hear from you. 

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Marcea van Doorn
Marcea van Doorn

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