In India, coconut trees are everywhere. They also play a major role in the typical Indian life. This is because of the versatility that a coconut tree offers. From food, to household products, and beauty and wellness, coconut can be turned into almost anything that contribute to the economy of this country.
But with its many uses comes the waste — thousands of coconut husks and shells are left abandoned on roadsides, causing traffic to the drainage system, taking up too much space on landfills, and a source of air pollution when being burnt. Despite its biodegradable feature, the number of coconuts used in India is not going down anytime soon, hence, the alarming number that they take up in the country, most especially in roadsides.
A Dutch startup from Amsterdam called CocoPallet has found a solution to this dilemma. Through sustainable and efficient processes, the technology that they created can turn these coconut husks and shells to usable wood pallets. These pallets are cheaper, fire and termite resistant wood, and most importantly, a greener option.
The idea was born when Jan Van Dam, a plant-fibre scientist at Wageningen University, was approached by an Indonesian who presented a prototype of coconut. Upon learning the basics on how to come up with a pallet using coconut, he went his way to revive this classic yet infamous Indonesian procedure.
“Rock hard, wood-like board material from coconut husk? That was new to me,” he shared with Dutch daily ‘de Volkskrant’.
“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.
With the continuous efforts of the team to develop this innovative idea, CocoPallet became an executable business model. This termite resistant wood alternative was durable and efficient enough to replace normal wood, making discarded coconut husks of use. With the help of natural binder lignin, synthetic resins need not be used, like in how it is for wood pallets.
Aside from being an alternative to wood, the pallets that are worn out can actually be serve as fertilizers. The genius idea that is CocoPallet does not give one benefit, but two!
“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.
All pallets are produced in the same location that they come from to avoid excessive transportation costs. This also became very beneficial to the local farmers since it turned into livelihood and for some, a source of extra income.
Major companies such as Accenture and Bloomberg have recognized the initiatives of CocoPallet and are willing to go out of their way to amplify this green, cheaper and termite resistant wood. Through continuous efforts, this innovation will take over the whole of Asia that’s dominant with coconuts, and hopefully be adapted by other parts of the world as well.