Overview & Commercial Applications of BagasseUpdate: 5/3/2013
Bagasse is the fibrous residue remaining after sugarcane or sorghum stalks are crushed to extract their juice.
Traditionally bagasse has been a waste by-product of the sugarcane production process.
More recently is has been used as a fuel source for sugar mills, a fiber for paper production, and as an annually renewable resource in the production of sustainable materials and packaging.
These rollers crush the sugarcane stalks and thus extract the juice from the sugarcane. The juice is collected and removed to be processed into sugar.
The remaining fibrous stalk (which has been crushed, squeezed, and removed of it’s juice) is bagasse. Typically, 10 parts of crushed sugarcane will yield 3 parts of wet bagasse.
Once removed, bagasse will be stored (either wet or dry) for one of its three major uses: fuel, paper, or packaging.
Bagasse contains a large amout of short fibers called ‘pith’. Around 30% of these fibers are removed from the bagasse prior to pulping.
Despite these efforts however a large amount of pith remains. Traditionally, there has been a perception among pulp and paper manufacturers that this remaining pith leads to poor paper production rates when compared to other forms of pulp (e.g., eucalypt pulp).
This is not the case however and it has been found that bagasse can be processed just as efficiently as other forms of pulp. Bagasse fibers have been found to be well suited for tissue, corrugating medium board, newsprint, and writing paper.
As such, bagasse paper and products have a significantly smaller environmental footprint relative to traditional paper and packaging products sourced from non-annually renewable resources such as trees (or in the case of packaging, petroleum…e.g., styrofoam).