22 January 2020

Beet sugar more sustainable than cane sugar

The production of Dutch beet sugar produces considerably less CO2 and fine particles than the production of cane sugar. Beet sugar also requires far less land and consumes significantly less water. These are the findings of a recent study carried out by the leading international consultancy, Blonk Consultants. The study has been peer reviewed by three independent organizations; SGS Search, DSM and Milieu Centraal.

Manufacturers who process sugar as an ingredient and consumers who eat sugar can do so more sustainably if they use Dutch beet sugar instead of cane sugar. Cosun Beet Company commissioned a study to determine as objectively as possible how beet sugar scored against cane sugar on relevant aspects of life cycle assessment (LCA). Blonk Consultants studied the impact on climate change, fine particle emissions, land use and water consumption of Dutch beet sugar in comparison with Brazilian and Indian cane sugar. It also took the impact of electricity production as a by-product of cane sugar into account and the consequences of pre-harvest burning to make the sugar cane harvest less labour intensive.

The main conclusions are:

  • The impact of Brazilian cane sugar on the climate is four times as high as that of Dutch beet sugar. The impact of Indian cane sugar is 37% higher than that of beet sugar.
  • Beet sugar production produces less than half the fine particles that Brazilian cane sugar production produces and just 38% of that of Indian cane sugar (expressed as fine particles in weight per kilogram of sugar produced).
  • It takes 50% more land to produce cane sugar in Brazil than it does to produce beet sugar. In India, nearly twice as much land is needed. Land use is expressed as the square metres needed to produce a kilogram of sugar
  • Little water is needed to produce sugar in the Netherlands and Brazil, two litres per kg sugar for beet sugar and 40 litres for Brazilian cane sugar. Indian cane sugar, by contrast, is extremely thirsty, needing more than 1,000 litres of water to produce a kilogram of sugar. The water is used to irrigate the sugar cane crop.

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