When the sap from plants such as sugar cane is extracted for commercial use, what's left over is a fibrous material known as bagasse. This is commonly used as biofuel, or is compressed into a wood substitute. Now, Mexican startup Plastinova is using agave bagasse from the tequila industry to make a wood-like material of its own, although it's also incorporating recycled plastic.
To make the material, the alcohol and sugar content is first removed from agave bagasse, leaving nothing but the fiber. That fiber is then dried and ground into a flour-like powder, to which a chemical agent is added – that agent allows the fiber powder to bond with waste plastics such as polypropylene and polyethylene, which make up 65 to 90 percent of the composite material.
The finished product is claimed to be stronger than natural wood, and takes the form of tablets measuring 1 m x 1.2 m x 10 cm (39 x 47 x 4 in) from which pieces can be cut as needed. Plastinova suggests that it could be made into items such as construction forms, benches, tables and chairs.
That said, the company is now looking into replacing the agave bagasse with coconut fiber, as lab tests have indicated that it should offer higher strength. Additionally, the agave bagasse can be difficult to acquire, as tequila companies usually keep it to fuel their boilers.
Source: Investigacion y Desarrollo (Spanish)
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