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Bagasse Turned Into Environmentally Friendly Tableware: Turning Waste Into Treasure

Views: 56     Author: Site Editor     Publish Time: 2021-07-29      Origin: Site

Bagasse Turned Into Environmentally Friendly Tableware: Turning Waste Into Treasure

Sugar cane contains about 10% sugar. But this means that it contains about 90% of non-sugar-a material called bagasse, and once the sugarcane is ground into a powder and the sugary juice is squeezed out of it, it remains. In 2017, the world's cane sugar production was 185 million tons. This resulted in a lot of bagasse. Currently, most of them have been burned. Normally, it provides fuel for local generators, thereby powering factories, so it does not waste. But by making some fine adjustments to bagasse, it can be a good substitute and biodegradable, thereby replacing the plastic used in disposable food containers such as coffee cups, bagasse plates and bagasse tableware.



How to convert bagasse into sugarcane tableware

Zhu Hongli, a mechanical engineer at Northeastern University in Boston, thinks it can be put to better use. Dr. Zhu is not the first person to have this idea. However, previous attempts often fail to come into contact with liquids. She thinks she can overcome this problem by adding another biodegradable material to the sugarcane pulp. She knows from previous research that the main reason that past efforts will fail when wet is that bagasse is composed of short fibers that cannot overlap sufficiently to give the final product elasticity.


Bamboo seems very suitable. It grows quickly, is easily degraded, and has appropriate long fibers. And it works. When the researchers mixed a small amount of bamboo pulp into bagasse, they found that the short fibers and long fibers were strongly intertwined. In addition, they discovered that the hot pressing process has mobilized part of the lignin in the fibers, and this hard, water-repellent material now acts as a binder that binds the fibers together.




The development of sugarcane tableware

In order to enable the development of new materials, Dr. Zhu and her colleagues first poured hot oil on them and found that they did not penetrate the material like previous bagasse products, but were rejected by their invention. They also found that when a cup is made of these things and filled with water that is heated to near boiling point, the cup stays intact for more than two hours. Although this is not as long as the plastic cup can last (it can survive indefinitely), it is long enough for all practical purposes. Moreover, this new material is twice as strong as the plastic used to make cups and is biodegradable. When Dr. Zhu buried a cup made of one cup in the ground, two of the cups rotted within two months, and she estimated it would completely disappear in six months.


Last but not least, she estimates that a cup made of this new material will cost $2,333 per ton. This is half of the cost of $4,750 per ton for biodegradable cups made of polylactic acid (fermented plant starch), which is only slightly higher than the cost of $2,177 per ton for making plastic cups. Overall, Dr. Zhu believes that bagasse is an obvious choice for making sugarcane coffee mugs, straws, disposable plates, and lightweight tableware.



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