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Product Review for STEM Activities: Stack Man Bowls (made with sugar cane bagasse)

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Today is a review of Stack Man Bowls, made of 100% compostable sugar cane called bagasse.

Bagasse (buh-gas) is the byproduct from manufacturing sugarcane and is taking the world by storm as an eco-friendly alternative to plastic! Bagasse has traditionally been discarded; however, there is an evolving understanding of practical uses such as animal feed, biofuel, building materials, and paper.

Check out this video by Business Insider, showing how bagasse is one solution to India’s plastic problem.

Here is another video on the design and manufacturing of sugarcane bagasse to make plates

Product Review

Compostable, eco-friendly bagasse bowls could be an excellent substitution for single-use plastic bowls. I am interested to see how these bowls “stack” up to other single-use bowls that we are more familiar with, like those made of paper, plastic, and Styrofoam.

Company: Stack Man Bowls

Decomposition Timeline and Process: While bagasse is fully compostable, it is recommended to be commercially composted. In a commercial composting condition, the rate for full breakdown is approximately 45 to 60 days. I ripped up a bowl and added it to my Lomi by Pela Earth with some coffee grounds and overly ripe bananas that were beyond banana bread compatibility. The bowl broke down well in the composter and now I have some nice compost!

Physical Characteristics: The bowls are a light brown in color. There is a slight matte texture on the outside and smoothness on the inside.

Tensile Strength: These bowls are pretty strong for most uses unless you WANT to rip them apart. If the goal is to break them down manually, a slight twist of the wrist and the bowl tears similarly to cereal box cardboard. However, I would not call them flimsy at all- they are definitely hardy.

Longevity in Liquid: I poured lukewarm water up to the brim in one bowl and boiling water to the brim in the second bowl. I was amazed out how well these bowls held up; they exceeded my expectations! Even after 16 hours, the bowl with the boiling water did not become soggy and fall apart. These would be fine for an activity that involves water.

Fire Safety: I have not done this is any of my other blog posts, but I had a strong desire to set a bowl on fire to see what would happen (I did this experiment next to a Kotto fume extractor). The bowl caught on fire quickly and spread rapidly. From that experiment, I would not recommend a STEM activity that involved any kind of flame.

Conclusion: While avoiding single-use items and sticking to more permanent bowls is ideal (i.e., metal, silicone, or glass bowls), I think these Stack Man bagasse sugarcane bowls will work well for most STEM projects. They are similar to plastic and Styrofoam single-use bowls in being able to handle heavy items, liquids, and physically tear down easily. For some of you who love to challenge students, the unique characteristics of this product may be a great constraint that they have to work around!

Moving forward, if you choose to try out Stack Man sugarcane bowls:

  • Please follow the manufacturer’s instructions to dispose of the materials. These bowls are not made for home composting.

  • Be careful with flames nearby as these are flammable

  • As with any item, young students should be closely supervised.

  • Avoid sugarcane bagasse bowls that use plastic packaging.

  • Avoid sugarcane bagasse bowls that are bleached. They will be white in color instead of brown.

Student Activities- Sugarcane Bagasse

Activity 1

Ag in the Classroom provides educational resources about the sugarcane plant as a Louisiana agricultural commodity. The site thoroughly summarizes sugarcane with terminology, videos, coloring pages, and a sugar cookie recipe.

Activity 2

In Maui, sugarcane is grown, burned, and harvested. Sugarcane farmer shares his perceptions on the benefits of this process. A local nonprofit, Maui Tomorrow Foundation, disagrees. This video by PBS Hawai’i could be a good group discussion on the potential ecological benefits and drawbacks of industrial sugarcane production

Activity 3

Research by Gascon et al., (2012) suggests sugar cane workers can suffer from respiratory, allergy, and eye problems from harvesting sugar cane. Can your students ideate possible solutions for this health hazard?

Keep an eye out for more at Ben + STEM as we continue to explore eco-friendly materials and supplies for your STEM or STEAM classroom! Are you interested in trying these eco-friendly products out? Check out a Ben + STEM Sustainable STEM Sample box.

If you use sugar cane bagasse bowls in your STEM projects, please share at Letters to Ben or Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter.


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