Our planet is home to over 3 trillion trees, but according to a study published in the journal Nature that number is dramatically falling.
5.3 billion trees are chopped down every year and estimates show that about 46% of the world’s trees have been decimated over the past 12,000 years.
Wood is necessary for a many manufacturing and fuel and humans have been slow to develop sustainable alternatives. Thankfully, a Dutch start-up called CocoPallet has decided to take action and change the course of our planet for the better!
So What is CocoPallet?
CocoPallet produces 100% bio-based, durable transportation pallets from recycled coconut husk waste.
The process the company employs is far cheaper than using wood and doesn’t require any toxic chemicals that a lot of countries use in the production of wood pallets.
The biodegradable pallets do not require any adhesive glue as the husk from the coconut contains its own natural glue called lignin. Lignin is activated when coconut husk and ground and pressed under high temperatures.
CocoPallet estimates that their technique can save 200 million trees from being chopped down every year. That’s no surprise given the popularity of shipping pallets and the fact that they’re used all around the world.
Hardboards Made Of Coconut Husk Waste
Researchers at Wageningen University first developed the technique and technology to create the biodegradable pallets but the idea was later on commercialized by Michiel Vos, founder of CocoPallet.
Jan Van Dam, a plant scientist at Wageningen University, specializes in creating such materials out of plant fiber. The idea of crafting objects out of coconuts had been amiss with Jan until an Indonesian man at the college 20 years ago, surprised him with a piece of wood board.
Van Dam said:
“It looked like a normal piece of hardboard. But according to this man, it was not made out of logged trees, but completely made out of coconut bark, the outer shell of the fruit. Rock hard, wood-like board material from coconut husk? That was new to me”
Van Dam stated that the coconut husk had a huge range of potential uses, certainly throughout Asia where coconut waste is abundant.
“In many tropical countries, the coconut waste is rotting away or is set on fire. If you make raw materials out of the husk, you will hit several birds with one stone: you prevent deforestation, because less wood will be produced, you give farmers an extra income, because their waste is worth money, and you prevent the material from slowly rotting away, reducing pollution and climate change.”
In 2005, Van Dam trialed a method to process the coconut husks in the Philippines and opened a pilot factory. The project was short lived and Van Dam closed the factory because to circumstances such as an insufficient local power supply.
How CocoPallet Was Born
The innovative technique was later kick-started again in 2010 when Michiel Vos, founder of CocoPallet, met Van Dam. Vos was experimenting with bamboo fiber to make a hardwood alternative and needed natural glue, so he asked Van Dam for advice about any alternatives that may be plausible.
It was then that Van Dam suggested to Vos that he use coconut husk instead of bamboo as the coconut contained its own natural glue. He also stated that husks could be found anywhere in Asia basically for free on the sides of roads.
Vos was instantly amazed concluded that biodegradable pallets were the perfect use for this innovative technology.
“Asia produces more than a billion pallets every year. They require softwood, which does not grow in the tropics, thus is imported from Canada, New Zealand or Eastern Europe on a large scale. Complete forests are being shipped to Asia to make pallets, that are mainly used to ship products back to America or Europe. It is clearly a lot more efficient to make them in Asia with local materials.”
“CocoPallets have important advantages: they are stronger and lighter than the old-fashioned pallets, they are fire retardant, and thanks to an adjusted design, also easier to stack, so they take up less space. Above all, they are cheaper, and a lower price is always the best sales argument for a sustainable product,”
Van Dam notes that the coconut husk alternative is also moisture resistant and termite resistant, both being hugely important factor for tropical use. Vos and CocoPallet have received international recognition for their technology with entrepreneurial and innovation awards flooding in. They have now set up a factory in Indonesia.
CocoPallets save millions of trees every year while also recycling a waste product. It doesn’t get any better than that!