Researchers Develop Recyclable, Sugarcane-Based Waterproof Coating

Researchers Develop Recyclable, Sugarcane-Based Waterproof Coating

Biotechnologists working to add value to the Australia sugarcane industry have developed a process for turning sugarcane waste into a recyclable waterproof coating for paper and cardboard.

Typical methods for waterproofing paper-based materials, like boxes for transporting fruits and vegetables, use petroleum-based wax, creating boxes that can't be recycled.

Researchers at the Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for Sugar Industry Innovation through Biotechnology say they've found a way to make waterproofing from materials that are currently being burned.

Bagasse, the material leftover after juice has been crushed out of sugarcane, is made of lignin, cellulose and hemicellulose. Most sugarcane mills burn bagasse to provide heat and electricity.

Peter Twine, CEO of the CRC, said that to create cellulosic ethanol fuel from bagasse, the lignin must be removed, and current separation methods produce lignin that isn't suitable for waterproofing. Researchers at the CRC, though, have developed a method that extracts cellulose and uses new fermentation technology that produces lignin suitable for making waterproof materials.

"The true value of this technology will be realized when it is adopted in the marketplace," Twine said. "We would be willing to talk to others interested in markets for this type of technology and product properties."