Agriculture and Environment: Sugarcane

Environmental Impacts of Production: Solid Waste, Emissions, Wastewater

In addition to the impacts from production, there are a number of environmental problems at the mill.

These fall into 3 categories - wastewater, emissions, and solid waste. Wastewater includes the water used to wash all incoming cane (10 cubic meters for each metric ton of cane), water from the boiler house used to concentrate the sugar and evaporate the water, and water from cleaning all the equipment.


Perhaps the greatest environmental threat from processing occurs when mills are cleaned and thoroughly washed out, which occurs once or twice per year.

Waste and sludge left to rot
The resultant impacts are not from toxic chemicals, but rather from the release of massive quantities of plant matter and sludge. As these decompose in freshwater bodies they absorb all the available oxygen, which in turn leads to massive fish kills.

Harmful emissions
In addition, mills release flue gases from the combustion in the boiler rooms. The flue emissions also include soot, ash, and other solid substances. Ammonia is released during the concentration process.

Credits

Extracts from "World Agriculture & Environment" by Jason Clay - buy the book online from Island Press

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