Are Eco-friendly Products Really Eco-friendly? Part 3: Bagasse
With environmental considerations becoming more and more important to a growing number of consumers, there is a need to find an eco-friendly packaging solution. This article will examine whether bagasse could be viable packaging alternative and if it is as environmentally friendly as it claims to be.
Before we can talk about the potential usefulness of bagasse, we first need to explain what it is, as to many people this product is relatively unknown. Bagasse is made from the waste products left after sugar has been extracted from sugar cane. Studies estimate that globally around four million tonnes of bagasse are produced each year. Though this article will focus on bagasse as a packaging material, it should be noted that there are other uses for bagasse. In some countries it is used as a substitute for wood to produce materials like pulp and paper.
Now that we know a little about what bagasse is and how it is produced let’s look more closely at whether it would make an eco-friendly packaging material. We know that it is made from a renewable resource, sugar cane, and that without processing, the valuable bagasse could go to waste. Because sugar cane is grown seasonally each year, there will always be a constant supply of bagasse. Products made from bagasse are also much more cost-effective. If a bagasse mill is right next a sugar plant, bagasse can be extracted as the sugar cane is processed. This makes the production costs very low when compared to an alternative like paper. So, bagasse could be an effective alternative to other products on the market, but what types of materials can you make from it and how well will they function?
The main function of bagasse as a packaging material is in making eco-friendly cutlery such as plates and bowls. Bagasse functions very well as these materials as it is microwave safe. Additionally, it can handle a wide array of temperature up to about 100 degrees Celsius. These products are already in use today and are gaining support. However, the biggest question of all is how eco-friendly is bagasse?
It can completely biodegrade in about a month and is compostable. It may biodegrade even faster if shredded prior to composting or exposed to water. This can be compared to a paper plate that studies show takes about five years to properly decompose. It is even more eco-friendly when compared to its main rival Styrofoam which doesn’t decompose and is a huge environmental problem.
However, having said that, if composting facilities are not readily available, these bagasse packaging will most likely end up disposed as general waste, incinerated and sent to the landfill.
There’s no doubt that bagasse packaging is a viable alternative to other products in the market. We believe that with the right infrastructure and support from governments, we can make bagasse a true eco-friendly packaging.