In a groundbreaking initiative, sugarcane bagasse, the fibrous stalk waste left after sugarcane crops are harvested, has become the core component of an innovative eco-friendly building material named Sugarcrete. Recently honored with an international Climate Positive Award, Sugarcrete is the result of a collaborative effort between the University of East London and Tate & Lyle Sugars, a British firm.

The manufacturing process involves combining sugarcane bagasse with proprietary mineral-based binders, compressing the mixture, and allowing it to cure. The outcome is a series of high-strength blocks that serve as a sustainable alternative to traditional clay or concrete bricks. Sugarcrete boasts several advantages over its counterparts, such as a faster curing time (one week compared to four weeks for concrete), a significantly reduced weight (one quarter to one fifth of the weight per block), and a more cost-effective production process.

The material’s potential extends beyond its eco-friendly properties. In regions where sugarcane is cultivated, Sugarcrete offers a solution to the challenge of dealing with bagasse waste. Instead of being discarded in landfills, farmers can sell their bagasse to local companies for Sugarcrete production. This locally sourced building material becomes a viable and affordable option for construction projects that might otherwise rely on imported concrete.

Furthermore, Sugarcrete demonstrates a lower carbon footprint, estimated to be only 15% to 20% of traditional concrete. The production of conventional portland cement, a key component in concrete, contributes significantly to CO2 emissions. Sugarcrete’s innovative approach addresses environmental concerns by reducing reliance on such materials.

The versatility of Sugarcrete has been showcased in prototype modular floor slabs, emphasizing its potential in construction. These slabs, featuring interlocking blocks with minimal steel reinforcements, use up to 90% less steel than their concrete counterparts, reducing the risk of cracks under pressure. Recognizing its impact, Green Cross UK awarded Sugarcrete the circular economy section of its Climate Positive Awards at the United Nations Climate Change Conference.

Looking ahead, the Sugarcrete team is actively seeking agricultural partners in Global South nations to advance the commercialization of this transformative technology. As the demand for sustainable building materials grows, Sugarcrete stands out as an exemplary solution, turning sugarcane waste into a resource for climate-friendly construction.

By Impact Lab