Sugarcane is proving to be a popular, eco-friendly alternative to traditional packaging materials that more companies are adopting. As sustainable practices continue to inform consumers' buying decisions, sugarcane offers a sustainable solution to the eco-conscious consumer’s needs. By incorporating sugarcane packaging into your packaging process you are not only meeting the demands of the market but you are also offsetting your carbon footprint.
Sugarcane is grown in tropical places where it is harvested to produce sugar as well as biofuel like ethanol. After the crop has been harvested the leftover fibrous materials are often incinerated or used for fuel. Instead of simply discarding the waste, it can also be used to create packaging materials that are similar in function to traditional plastics.
Sugarcane is a low-impact material that provides the same flexibility as traditional polyethylene plastic. Yet, unlike plastic, sugarcane is biodegradable, compostable, and renewable when sourced responsibly. The production of sugarcane is a three-step process:
1. Extract all the juice from within the sugarcane. The juice is used to create sucrose and biofuels.
2. Once the juice is extracted there is waste leftover in the form of fibers called bagasse. The sugarcane bagasse is then blended with water to create a pulp similar to wood pulp used in paper products.
3. Pressure and heat are added to mold the pulp into the necessary shape for your packaging needs.
Once the process is complete you will have a flexible, sturdy, and easy-to-use material perfect for packaging. Because sugarcane is a renewable resource and does not depend on fossil fuels for production, its carbon footprint is quite small.
When compared to other packaging materials like paper products, sugarcane’s environmental impact is uniquely positive. Unlike in the production of paper products, sugarcane production does not require cutting down any trees. On top of that, while paper products for food often require a plastic coating to prevent leakage, there is no need for any plastics in the production or use of sugarcane packaging materials. By transitioning away from traditional packaging materials and using sugarcane instead, we can significantly cut back on tree harvesting and deforestation.
Sugarcane is clearly less carbon-intensive than traditional packaging materials. But on top of that, sugarcane is also classified as a carbon sink. This means that the amount of carbon dioxide the crop absorbs is equal to or greater than the amount of carbon dioxide it emits during production. So, while the sugarcane crop is growing it is absorbing carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. Once it reaches maturity and is harvested for its sucrose and fibers, the sugarcane still maintains its carbon neutrality.
And, because sugarcane is eco-friendly it is compostable and biodegradable. When placed in commercial composting facilities the sugarcane material breaks down quickly and does not clog landfills or enter marine ecosystems. Once composted it can be used as fertilizer, contributing to a cycle of renewable growth.
With advancements in sustainable technology, more eco-friendly materials can be used in the packaging process. This cuts down on carbon dioxide emissions and reduces companies’ carbon footprints while giving back to the environment. Consider alternative packaging materials like sugarcane in your packaging process and learn more about the carbon footprint of packaging materials.