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Citation Information

Type Journal Article - Research and Policy Development to Advance a Green Economy in South Africa
Title A biorefinery approach to improve the sustainability of the South African sugar industry: Assessment of selected scenarios.
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2016
URL http://www.sagreenfund.org.za/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/SU-Biorefinery-Research-Report.pd​f
The survival of the South African sugar industry is under threat due to fluctuating and falling sugar prices, competition
with low cost producers, increasing energy costs and aging infrastructure. Approximately 1 million South Africans
depend directly or indirectly on the sugar industry for their livelihoods. It has been proposed that product diversification
by annexing sugarcane biorefineries to existing sugar mills has the potential to improve the long term sustainability of
South African sugar mills. The proposal is to replace existing inefficient boilers with new efficient energy islands to supply
the energy requirements of the sugar mill and the biorefinery. The excess bagasse currently used for energy would then
be available for conversion to valuable products within the biorefinery. In addition it is proposed that the current
practice of burning cane before harvest is stopped because this is detrimental to the health of the farm workers and
people living near sugar cane plantations. This would have the added benefit of making more biomass feedstock
available to the biorefinery. These changes fit well with current plans by government to move towards a green
economy because producing chemicals and biofuels from renewable materials should reduce our overall
environmental impact. In addition it is expected that changing harvesting practices and extending the sugar mill
product range will create jobs and support rural development.

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