Imagine scrubbing your kitchen top with the by-product of the tequila production process, agave fiber. 3M makes it possible with a green cleaning sponge made of 100% plant-based fiber incorporating 50% of agave, the fruit harvested for tequila. They claim it outlasts 30 rolls of paper towels. Furthermore, 3M’s Scotch-Brite Greener Clean Non-Scratch Scrub Sponge is made of 23% recycled materials.
Agave is grown in large volumes in the tequila capital of the world, Mexico’s state of Jalisco. More than 700,000 tons of agave are used to produce over 40 million gallons of tequila yearly. A lot is also used to create agave syrup. Since only the juice is used, the rest of the agave is often left to decompose in the fields. This is a great waste of energy because it takes 6-10 years of farming to grow agave before it is harvested, spending lots of water and energy.
Now many companies like 3M are using the agave fiber, called bagasse, to produce all kinds of products. Most commonly known are textile companies producing 10% up to 100% agave fiber based clothing. Perhaps a less known application but with great potential is to combine agave with polyethylene to accelerate the degradability of plastic bags.
Agave plants also produce edible flowers during its final season and the stalks can be used to make didgeridoos. The leaves are used for eating in different cuisines as well as for making tea to treat constipation and excess gas. What a multi-purpose plant!