Sugar has a bad reputation. We’re always concerned with keeping our sweet tooth in check and avoiding those excess carbs. While sugarcane is indeed responsible for a lot of the sugar in our diet, it also has other applications.
After extracting all the valuable juice from sugarcane, there’s a lot of plant matter left behind. This byproduct is known as bagasse. While sugarcane with no sugar would seem bound for the compost heap, this product has plenty of uses, ensuring no cane goes to waste. What is sugarcane bagasse used for? Let’s find out.
A Power Source Close to Home
After processors extract juice from sugarcane, lots of bagasse doesn’t travel very far from the sugar mill. In fact, mills themselves often use bagasse as an effective biofuel to power the facilities. Bagasse heads to the boiler for incineration, where it is part of a co-generative power system that transforms steam into heat and electricity. This is such an efficient use of fuel that some processing facilities can resell surplus electricity to consumers. Moreover, carbon dioxide emissions are low enough relative to the CO2 absorption of sugarcane production that bagasse as biofuel is carbon neutral.
Paper Plates Plus
Processing the pulp left over from sugarcane production produces a durable alternative to traditional paper products. While paper plates are infamous for their flimsiness, disposable plates made from bagasse are strong and firm while being fully biodegradable and compostable. You can throw a sustainable cookout this summer by swapping out plastic plates for hardy and attractive bagasse plates.
We get our charcoal from various forms of plant matter, and sugarcane fiber is among them. Along with coconut shells, bamboo, and other types of biomass waste material, bagasse undergoes carbonization under high temperatures. After the addition of binding agents and shaping, convenient charcoal briquettes are ready for market.
Cows need their roughage, and sugarcane fiber is about as rough as it gets. With sugar mills producing more bagasse than they need for fuel and still having leftovers after sending some off for dinnerware production, mills send their bagasse back to the farm. More and more, sugarcane bagasse is used for keeping livestock well-fed, with bagasse silage representing a growing portion of the cattle diet. Don’t expect it to overtake corn, however—some studies have indicated that a diet heavy in sugarcane fiber diminishes the milk yield of dairy cows, who seem to prefer corn silage.