Every year, around 1.7 billion pallets are used to transport goods from Asia to the rest of the world. For making these single-use or one-way export pallets, almost 170 million trees are cut down. In the meantime, 7.4 billion coconuts are harvested all over the world. After consumption, the unwanted hairy coconut shells are either burnt or thrown in the ocean, which creates around 60 billion Kgs of waste every year.
While Indian coir industry has already been utilising waste coconut husks, it forms only 28.41 per cent of their total availability. The government of India suggests the coir industry to collect at least 60 per cent of the total coconut husks produced in the country for fibre extraction. However, there is no scheme yet to promote husk collection/ extraction. To tap the available coconut husks resources, there is also a need to set up fibre extraction units in the coconut producing states. Also, even the country has abundant coconut husks but number of coir industries and defiber plants are comparatively very less. In such condition, other ways to utilise the waste coconut husk is essential.
Recently, a company in Amsterdam- CocoPallet has found a perfect sustainable solution to use waste coconut shells, worthy of replication in coconut-rich nations of South-East Asia. The Dutch start-up company has decided to make biodegradable pallets out of the discarded coconut husk from Asian countries. The founder of CocoPallet- Michiel Vos- got this idea after exploring through the studies conducted by Wageningen University researchers.
The company claims that these coco pallets are way stronger, cheaper and sustainable than the wooden or plastic pallets. Moreover, they believe that the project is enough to stop felling of almost 200 million trees. Unlike wooden pallets, coco pallets do not have synthetic binding agents. Also, they are fully biodegradable. And at the end of the useful life, these can be milled down into mulch and used as a substitute to a high quality and natural soil improver.
In a bird’s eye view, there are many advantages of coco pallets produced by the company: they are completely termite, moisture and fire- resistant, can easily bear 2000 kg static load and 1000kg dynamic load, ISPM15 compliant, nest-able, competitively priced. The manufacturing of these pallets does not require any chemical treatment. For creating these pallets, the company purchases the waste husks directly from the coconut farmers. And thus, this project helps in creating an extra income for farmers in the developing countries. It also provides an excellent solution to deforestation. Global organizations such as Bloomberg and Accenture have already awarded the innovation.
Why Similar Initiative is Recommended in India?
Today, India is the third largest producer of coconut in the world. The Southern state of India- Kerala produces roughly 45 per cent of the country's coconuts, with around 92 per cent of total production lying in Kerala's neighbours and the other Southern Indian States.
In southern India, coconut trees form an indispensable part of everyday lives. Every part of the coconut tree is used for different purposes- from cooking to producing a wide range of household items. However, it is not a very rare sight to see a heap of unwanted hairy coconut husk lying on the roadside- piling up the landfills, blocking the drainage system or polluting the air when burnt. Even, the coconut residues are not even used in rural areas as fuel or otherwise. The reason for this is the change in lifestyle or switching to a modernised lifestyle.
It has been estimated that the demand for pallets in India will increase at a significant rate because of the tremendous growth of the manufacturing sector and the warehousing industry. According to Persistence Market Research report, the growth rate of pallets in India is projected to reach a value of US$ 2,744 Mn by 2024 end, registering a relatively high CAGR of 13.9% during the forecast period. It is also estimated that the plastic segment is also likely to grow considerably.
If we check several studies, we will find that currently the India pallets market is segmented into composite wood, wood, plastics, paper and metal. And out of all these materials, the pallets made from wood are a key part of the system that helps to transport goods to stores. But the consistent cutting down of trees for creating wood pallets or other wood products is causing environmental imbalance. And as per a report, if the present state of felling trees continues and conservation efforts are not scaled up, the world will lose forests equivalent the size of India by 2050.
So, the initiative by Michiel Vos seems fruitful as well as sustainable for India. India should take a decision to do innovative and creative inventions as such to utilize the coconut husks piled up in every corner.