Fire & Termite-Resistant Pallets From Coconut Husk That Save 200 Million Trees A Year

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In the tropical landscape of peninsular India, coconut trees form a vital resource in everyday life. From extensive culinary use to generating a wide range of household items as by-products, coconut is virtually indispensable in Southern India.

Consequently, a heap of coconut husks and shells on the roadside – blocking the drainage system, packing up the landfills, or polluting the air when burnt – is not a very rare sight. This is the ugly part of the story. Although biodegradable, coconut husks end up as useless, despite having a horde of potential uses unknown to the urban population. Even in rural areas, coconut residues are finding lesser and lesser usage as fuel or otherwise, courtesy the switch to modernised lifestyle. While India is yet to identify and address this problem, a company in Amsterdam has found a perfect sustainable solution, worthy of replication in coconut-rich nations of South-East Asia. Dutch start-up CocoPallet produces biologically processed transportation pallets from coconut husk. Not only are these 100% organic, greener, cheaper and more compact than wood or plastic pallets, but they are also indirectly preventing the felling of around 200 million trees per year in the Netherlands. Founder Michiel Vos has improvised on the technology originally developed by Wageningen University researchers and created a world-class product with equal finesse and sturdiness, that is boosting a circular economy.

CocoPallet
85% of the coconut husks go to waste

An ancient Indonesian technique

The idea of CocoPallet actually has its root in a primitive Indonesian procedure, practised by only a handful. Jan Van Dam, a plant-fibre scientist at Wageningen University chanced upon this superb technology when a man from Indonesia presented a prototype coconut pallet to him. “Rock hard, wood-like board material from coconut husk? That was new to me,” he shared with Dutch daily ‘de Volkskrant’. Traditionally made from shredded coconut husk processed in steam, the almost forgotten technique was revived by Jan Van Dam and his team in a modern set up.

“We looked for improvements and came up with a technique where the ground up husk is pressed together at a high temperature,” Van Dam explains. The natural lignin in the coir melts and forms the binding material, making it resistant to termites – which is a major problem with wood.

Soon afterwards, he launched a pilot project in the Philippines, which failed for a number of local reasons. The revolutionary technology would have faded into oblivion once again had Michiel Vos not met with Jan Van Dam. “Why don’t you use coconut husk, he asked?…. And anywhere in Asia, it is found almost for free on the side of the road,” recalls Vos about his interaction with Van Dam.

CocoPallet
Coconut has a wide variety of uses

Advantages of CocoPallets

Michiel Vos wasted no time in amplifying the idea into a successful business model and the benefits slowly unfolded over the years. Rarely one comes across a sustainable product with all prominent pros and no cons, but CocoPallet can be called one such product, both environmentally and economically. Made entirely from discarded coconut husk in Asian countries, it negates the use of any toxic and expensive pesticide treatment for the trees like methyl bromide fumigation. Estimates show that they are using almost around 50% of coconut waste.

Thanks to the natural binder lignin, there is no need for any synthetic resins as used in wood pallets. The product is as strong as wood or plastic pallets, supporting a load of up to 3000 kgs. The worn out pallet can be ground into biomass and used as a green fertiliser for agriculture. That is how CocoPallet is supporting a circular economy in itself, asserts founder Vos. 

CocoPallet
One CocoPallet can support up to 3000 kgs

Saving trees & cutting costs

“Asia produces more than a billion pallets every year. They require softwood, which does not grow in the tropics, thus, it is imported from Canada, New Zealand or Eastern Europe on a large scale,” Vos shares with de Volkskrant. This is synonymous to exporting entire forests (200 million trees per year for 1.7 billion wood pallets) to Asia, incurring an enormous freight cost.

CocoPallet is producing the pallets in Sumatra, Indonesia from local plantations, eliminating the whole burden of transport cost. Already popular among Asian exporters, the company is also creating extra income for local farmers.

CocoPallet
CocoPeople at work

Global organisations like Accenture and Bloomberg have duly recognised and awarded the innovation. The founder hopes to expand his business further to rid other Asian countries of their coconut waste, in the most eco-friendly way possible.

Also Read: Toilets That Make Gardens From Humanure: An Eco-Friendly Future Can Come From Your Toilet

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‘Happy Fridge’: The Key To Bridge Food Wastage And Hunger Problem In India

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Rahul Khera and Gautam Jindal, volunteers (aka hunger heroes) at Feeding India, were among the many Delhi NCR residents accustomed to seeing hungry children pick up half-eaten burgers or stale sandwiches from the dustbin and savour those with the brightest smiles. Like many others, they also had the will to promote equitable food distribution but was perplexed about the approach, until they learnt about the community fridge initiative which has gained unprecedented success in Saudi Arabia and few other European countries. Meanwhile, community fridges were already being installed outside restaurants or in public places in a handful of cities like Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Coimbatore and Kochi.

Say Goodbye To Throwing Away Excess Food Because Now You Can Donate The Food To The Needy – Happy Fridge

Thank you for overwhelming response for the Happy Fridge concept. We need more funds from you to install more fridges like this across India. With the limited funds avaialble Feeding India was able to install three fridges only. Kindly donate here http://bit.ly/happyfridge

Posted by The Logical Indian on Saturday, October 27, 2018

Needless to mention, with a shocking 103rd rank in the Global Hunger Index and a food wastage estimate of around Rs 58,000 crore – India was perhaps the best country to implement such an initiative. With Gautam’s help, an enthusiastic Rahul invested his own savings to install a ‘Happy Fridge’ outside his residence at Sun City, Sector 54 in Gurgaon. Set up in 2017 by these Feeding India volunteers, the fridge in Gurgaon has inspired the NGO to scale up the project across India.

No one has ever become poor by giving
– Anne Frank

‘Happy Fridge’ fostered many smiles

It didn’t take long for the local residents to learn about this laudable endeavour. They welcomed it, as wastage of excess food was a recurring problem in almost every household. “Intimating the localities was no mammoth task, thanks to social media. However, it was difficult to spread the word among those who actually needed the food,” shares Rahul, who went from auto stands to slums, inviting rickshaw pullers, ragpickers or roadside vendors to avail the community fridge any time they feel hungry. “The security guards of our residential complex played a huge role in explaining how the fridge works to the beneficiaries,” he adds.

The operational and maintenance costs of the ‘ happy fridge ‘ are being maintained diligently by the community members.

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Making memories, sprouting awareness

“I remember one young man who had arrived from a village looking for some menial day job. Somehow he had run out of his paltry savings and had no money to buy one decent meal a day. For about a month, our happy fridge was his solace, till he earned his first salary from a housekeeping job,” shares a jubilant Rahul.

In another incident, a truck driver returning in the wee hours of midnight was starving after a whole day’s hard work. He had run out of cooking fuel at his home, so our fridge was at his rescue.

“The residents keep all sorts of palatable dishes in the happy fridge, ranging from dry snacks, fruits to cooked meals. Sometimes, they even keep raw vegetables, to ensure not a single bit of good food ends up in their trash while other people go hungry to bed,” reveals Rahul.

On an average, each happy fridge supplies around 10-15 meals in a day. The gratitude and pure smiles of the hungry souls after a fulfilling meal are more than enough to continue to motivate Rahul and his neighbours. In fact, inspired by him, many other communities in the Delhi-NCR region set up community fridges in their areas.

Feeding India will set up 500 Happy Fridges

Since the past few years, Feeding India has been a prominent organisation working in the forefront to solve the hunger problem in India. Primarily, they were involved in redistributing leftover food from weddings and parties among the underprivileged people in different cities of India. Their volunteers, better known as “Hunger Heroes of India”, worked actively to bridge the gap between food wastage and food crisis.

“We used to get a lot of calls from individual households to collect their excess food. However, unfortunately, we lacked the manpower and planning to launch our programme on a door to door basis. We were desperately looking for an alternative when we learnt about the community fridges,” shares Srishti Jain, co-founder of Feeding India.

After interacting with Rahul Khera and other campaigners of community fridges, Feeding India decided to amplify this extraordinary project throughout the length and breadth of India. Presently, they have launched the #FightFoodWaste campaign to install 500 community fridges – nicknamed ‘ Happy Fridge ’. So any passer-by – be it a kid going to school without a lunchbox, or a labourer returning home late at night with no promise of a dinner – can now grab a pack of biscuits or a bowl of ‘dal-chawal’ (rice & lentil soup) to satiate their hunger. Click here to contribute for ‘ Happy Fridge ‘ and ensure India never sleeps hungry again.

Feeding India also urges everyone to make a promise to stop wasting food and instead consider donating it to those in need.

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