Bagasse is a fiber that remains after the extraction of the sugar-bearing juice from sugarcane. It is also known as megass. The word bagasse, from the Spanish bagazo, originally meant “refuse,” “rubbish,” or “trash.”
Applied first to the debris from the pressing of grapes, palm nuts, and olives, the word was eventually used to mean leftovers from other processed plant materials, such as sugar beets, sugarcane, and sisal. Today, however, the word is used just for the by-product of the sugarcane mill. Bagasse is used as a source of cellulose for manufacturing animal feeds or is burned as fuel in the sugarcane mill.
Paper is produced from bagasse in the Middle East, a few Latin American countries, and in sugar-producing countries that are deficient in forest resources. In addition, it is the main ingredient for the production of pressed building board as well as other construction materials, and can be made into many biodegradable plastics. Being readily available as a waste product with a high content of sugar, bagasse has potential as an environmentally friendly alternative to corn as a source of the biofuel ethanol.
A number of researches have explored using bagasse for the production of bio-based materials and as a renewable power generation source. Some of the most common uses of bagasse are for pulp, feed, board, paper and fuel. It is usually used as a main fuel source for sugar mills. Bagasse produces heat energy to supply all the needs of a typical sugar mill, when it is burned in quantity, with energy to spare. Furthermore, the second use for this waste product is in cogeneration. This use provides both – heat energy and electricity.
The first is used in the mill, and the second is typically sold on to the consumer electricity grid. The CO2 emissions are less than the amount that the sugarcane plants absorb from the atmosphere during its growing phase. For this reason, it makes the process of cogeneration greenhouse gas-neutral. In a number of countries, sugar factories significantly contribute ‘green’ power to the supply of electricity. In some countries, such as Brazil, ethanol produced from the sugar in sugarcane is a popular fuel.
In addition, the cellulose-rich bagasse is being investigated for its potential for producing commercial quantities of cellulosic ethanol. As we already mentioned, bagasse is also used as a substitute for wood in a number of tropical and subtropical countries for the production of paper, pulp and board, such as Argentina, Thailand, Iran, Colombia, China and India. It produces pulp with physical properties that are suited for writing papers and generic printing. However, it is also widely used for boxes and newspaper production.
It is considered a good substitute for plywood and can also be used for making boards resembling plywood or particle board, called Xanita board and Bagasse board. Additionally, it has wide usage for making, furniture, partitions, etc. By mixing bagasse with enzymes and molasses and fermenting it, K-Much Industry has patented a method of converting it into cattle feed. It is marketed in Australia, Middle East, Taiwan, Korea, Malaysia, Japan and Thailand as “fiber rich.”