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Factsheet: What is bagasse, and why do we use it for food packaging?

About this article

A grease-proof, heat-resistant and freezable by-product of renewable and fast-growing sugar cane. Read on to find out more about bagasse and its place in the future of food packaging and tableware.

calender 05 Jan 2024
clock 5 min
user Marcea van Doorn

What is bagasse?

Bagasse, also known as sugar cane pulp, is a by-product of sugar cane production. It’s the fibrous waste that remains after the juice has been squeezed from the sugar cane stalks. As a by-product, it doesn’t require additional land and energy to grow and doesn’t increase deforestation. 

It looks and feels like cardboard or paper because it has a high level of cellulose (around 50%). Bagasse products are typically white, but naturally it’s brown. The white products you are perhaps familiar with are bleached.

Compared to the many years it takes trees to grow, sugarcane can be grown in six months, meaning it’s relatively renewable.

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 from which the material is extracted.

Once processed, bagasse looks, feels and acts similar to paper. The main difference is that instead of pulping wood from trees, it’s sourced and formed from a waste product of sugar production.

This difference is significant when considering how sustainable bagasse versus paper is, as bagasse comes from a resource that renews reasonably quickly. It can take just six months for sugar cane to be grown to harvest, whereas trees and forests take considerably longer (between 7-10 years) and comes with issues associated with deforestation.

Moreover, 1.5 tonnes of sugar cane pulp produce 1 tonne of bagasse paper; however, it takes 5 tonnes of wood to produce 1 tonne of paper.

Why does bagasse make good food packaging and tableware material?

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

Bagasse packaging
Verive bagasse plate carries EN13432 Certification and 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 must first check that these facilities exist and accept bagasse products (usually alongside standard food and organic waste) in your local area.

Does bagasse decompose in the environment?

No.

If you leave bagasse packaging in the environment, it won’t degrade quickly. As such, bagasse represents the same sort of litter as more common packaging materials when disposed of improperly.

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

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Marcea van Doorn

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