Bagasse: A Sustainable Plastic Alternative

With environmental concerns at the forefront of our collective consciousness, finding sustainable alternatives to conventional materials is paramount. One alternative gaining recognition is bagasse.

Bagasse is a versatile and eco-friendly material derived from sugarcane. With its unique properties and numerous benefits, it is a promising solution for food packaging and serviceware.

Perfect for restaurants looking to reduce their ecological footprint, bagasse has the potential to revolutionize how we handle takeout and delivery waste.

In this article:

Field of sugarcane that will be turned into bagasse

What is bagasse?

Bagasse, a fibrous material derived from the residue of the sugar production process, offers a compelling sustainable alternative to plastic. The process would usually discard or burn this natural byproduct. Instead, manufacturers repurpose it into valuable products, contributing to waste reduction while fostering a closed nutrient loop.

It’s a renewable resource, as sugarcane can be harvested multiple times a year. This rapid growth cycle contributes to the sustainability of bagasse as a raw material. It offers a solution that reduces reliance on non-renewable resources while promoting responsible land use practices.

Bagasse is an organic material that is fully biodegradable and compostable. When properly disposed of, it breaks down naturally, returning to the environment as organic matter. This then becomes nutrient-rich compost that we can use to improve the soil in home gardens or agriculture. 

Bagasse in food packaging and serviceware offers an eco-friendly alternative to environmentally harmful materials. Its natural composition, renewability, and ability to biodegrade make this material a compelling choice for businesses seeking sustainable solutions.

How is it made?

Before bagasse becomes a fibrous material, it begins as sugarcane. Farmers use specialized machinery to cut sugarcane stalks when they reach peak maturity, ensuring minimal waste and maximum yield.

After harvesting, the sugarcane stalks are transported to sugar mills for processing. There, the stalks are crushed to extract sugarcane juice, which then goes through a clarification process to remove impurities and solid particles.

Once clarified, the juice will undergo a series of evaporation and crystallization processes to obtain raw sugar crystals. Finally, the raw crystals are separated from the syrup through centrifugation, leaving behind a thick, fibrous residue — better known as bagasse.

The collected waste is washed to remove any remaining sugar and dried to reduce its moisture content. Once dried, bagasse is ready to become various products, including food service ware.

Sugarcane stalks on a wood table

Environmental Benefits of Bagasse

Bagasse is a sustainable alternative that offers many benefits that can contribute to a greener future. Perfect for food serviceware, it has the potential to reduce waste and our reliance on plastic.

It’s renewable
Sugarcane is a rapidly renewable resource. Stalks grow in as little as six months and farmers harvest them multiple times per year. As well, farmers often cut the stalks instead of pulling them out by the roots. This way, they don’t have to replant them after each harvest.

It’s fully compostable and biodegradable
Whether placed in a home compost or commercial facility, bagasse products break down naturally. It can degrade in as little as 90 days, returning to the earth without leaving harmful residues behind.

It has a lower carbon footprint
The production of bagasse-based products typically requires less energy compared to plastic or styrofoam. Additionally, these products have lower greenhouse gas emissions compared to materials derived from fossil fuels. Bagasse significantly reduces our carbon footprint and helps mitigate the impacts of climate change.

Reduces waste and has a circular economy
Bagasse serves as a valuable byproduct of the sugarcane industry. Instead of discarding or burning it, manufacturers repurpose it into useful products. This reduces the amount of waste from the sugarcane production process and promotes a circular economy approach.

Learn more: Compostable vs Biodegradable: What’s the difference?

Does bagasse degrade in natural environments?

Bagasse is a natural material that can degrade in natural environments – under the right conditions. But landfills often lack the microorganisms needed to break down compostable items, so we should compost bagasse whenever possible.

The time it takes for products to decompose depends on various factors, such as oxygen levels, temperature, and humidity. Products aren’t exposed to oxygen in landfills, meaning it would take much longer than the 45-90 day window to decompose. Degradation could take decades, depending on how buried the product is beneath other waste.

As well, when organic waste starts to break down without oxygen, it releases methane gas, contributing to our air pollution problem. Ultimately, bagasse is a biodegradable material that users should compost whenever possible.

Up close image of a bagasse container

Why bagasse makes great food serviceware

Bagasse is a great alternative to single-use plastic. It’s a versatile material that can be molded and formed into a variety of products, such as plates, bowls, clamshells, and trays. 

Not only is it fully compostable and biodegradable, but it’s also durable. The natural fibres create a robust structure that can withstand the rigors of the dining experience. Containers can carry heavy meals, while cutlery can cut through tough foods with ease.

Bagasse also demonstrates excellent heat and moisture resistance, making it suitable for hot food items and liquids. Additionally, it has great oil resistance, ensuring it remains strong and leak-proof, even when paired with greasy or saucy foods.

And as awareness of our environmental crisis grows, consumers are starting to favour businesses that adopt sustainable practices. By using bagasse serviceware, restaurants can demonstrate their commitment to sustainability and appeal to environmentally conscious customers.

Do bagasse products contain PFAS?

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of human-made chemicals commonly found in food packaging materials. Specialists link these chemicals to health risks such as cancer, liver damage, and infertility. 

PFAS chemicals are able to resist water and grease, making them ideal for food packaging. But when it comes to bagasse, containers don’t need PFAS to keep the material durable.

The manufacturing process does not add additional chemicals and treatments when extracting the pulp from sugarcane. But when the material undergoes the process of becoming food serviceware, some companies may include PFAS to make them extra durable.

Learn More: PFAS: Everything You Need to Know

Bagasse sauce cup by Origin Sustainables

The Origin Difference

When looking to purchase bagasse containers, be sure to look for companies that offer PFAS-free options. 

At Origin Sustainables, we offer containers that are durable and resistant to leakages without the help of PFAS. And if in need of extra protection, we offer containers lined with compostable food wax. It’s a great alternative to PFAS that’s both environmentally and health conscious.

Ready to make the switch to sustainability?

See More: Compostable Takeout Containers

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