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Coconut Husk Waste Can Replace Wood And Save Millions Of Trees

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Coconut Husk Waste Can Replace Wood And Save Millions Of Trees
Photo Credit: CocoPallet

The planet is home to 3 trillion trees. Although, according to a study published in Nature that number is falling. Every year 15.3 billion trees are chopped down, and around 46% of the world’s trees have been cleared out over the past 12,000 years. Unfortunately, humans have been slow to develop sustainable alternatives, partly because wood is necessary for manufacturing many goods. Thankfully, a Dutch start-up called CocoPallet is one of the companies that are taking action to change this!

What Is CocoPallet?
CocoPallet
Photo Credit: CocoPallet

CocoPallet produces 100% bio-based, durable transportation pallets out of recycled coconut husk waste. The process used by CocoPallet is cheaper than using wood and they don’t require the highly toxic methyl-bromide fumigation that some countries still use in wood pallet manufacturing. They also don’t require any glue because the coconut husk has its own natural glue called lignin. This natural glue is activated when they grind the coconut husk and press them together at high temperatures. It’s estimated that CocoPallet saves more than 200 million trees from being chopped down every year. Since shipping pallets are used all around the world, it’s no surprise.

Hardboards Made Of Coconut Husk Waste

The technique was originally developed by researchers at Wageningen University but was later on commercialized by Michiel Vos, entrepreneur, and founder of CocoPallet.

Jan Van Dam is a plant scientist at Wageningen University, who specializes in creating materials out of plant fiber. Although it never occurred to him to craft objects out of coconuts until an Indonesian man entered his office at the college 20 years ago with a piece of wood board. “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” said Van Dam.

Van Dam explained that he saw a huge potential with the coconut husk, especially in Asia where coconut waste is abundant. He said:

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.

85% of coconut husks go to waste
85% of coconut husks go to waste

In 2005 the researcher attempted to manufacture this technique in the Philippines where he opened a pilot factory. However, due to circumstances such as an insufficient local power supply, the project was short-lived.

How CocoPallet Was Born

Luckily, the clever technique was revived in 2010 when Michiel Vos found Van Dam. Vos was making a hardwood alternative from bamboo fibre and needed natural glue, so he asked Van Dam for advice about alternatives that he could use. Van Dam suggested that he use coconut husk instead because the glue was part of the coconut husk. He also mentioned that anywhere in Asia it could be found basically for free off the side of the roads. Amazed, Vos left his office with a final report. He concluded that pallets were the perfect use case for this technology.

Vos explained:

“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,” Vos added.

Van Dam says the coconut alternative is also moisture resistant and termite resistant, which is an important factor for tropical use. Vos and CocoPallet have won entrepreneurial and innovation awards and now have a factory in Indonesia. CocoPallets are a win-win solution that saves millions of trees while also recycling a waste product. It doesn’t get any better than that!

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Environment

Here Comes Hemp: Congress Votes To Unleash A Billion-Dollar Industry

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Photo Credit: Getty

Phillip Smith, Drug Reporter

The Senate on Tuesday and the House on Wednesday gave final approval to the massive 2018 Farm Bill, including a provision that will end an eight-decade ban on industrial hemp, that non-psychoactive but extremely useful member of the cannabis family. President Trump is expected to sign the bill into law.

Even though you could smoke a hemp joint the size of a telephone pole and get nothing more than a cough and a headache, for decades the DEA has refused to recognize any distinction between hemp and marijuana that gets you high. That meant that American farmers could not legally produce hemp for a hemp products industry worth $820 million last year and expected to break the billion-dollar mark this year.

That’s right: Thanks to a federal court case brought against the DEA more than a decade ago, farmers in countries where hemp is legal can export it to the U.S., and companies in the U.S. can turn that hemp into a variety of products ranging from foods to clothing to auto body parts to building materials and beyond, but U.S. farmers can’t grow it. That’s about to change.

For too long, the outrageous and outdated ban on growing hemp has hamstrung farmers in Oregon and across the country,” said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR). “Hemp products are made in America, sold in America, and consumed in America. Now, hemp will be able to be legally grown in America, to the economic benefit of consumers and farmers in Oregon and nationwide.”

Wyden and fellow Oregonian Sen. Jeff Merkley (D) teamed up with Kentucky Republican Sens. Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell to sponsor the bill and guide it through Congress. McConnell’s role as Senate Majority Leader certainly didn’t hurt the bill’s prospects.

As well as guiding the bill forward, McConnell took to the Senate floor on various occasions to support it. In his statement on the passage of the farm bill, he touted “the new opportunities available with the full legalization of industrial hemp.”

Finally we are recognizing industrial hemp for the agricultural product it is,” Merkley said. “This is a cash crop that hasn’t been allowed to meet its full economic potential because of outdated restrictions. When I visited a hemp farm mid-harvest, I saw first-hand the enormous potential of this diverse crop under the limited 2014 farm bill. This full legalization provides economic opportunity for farmers across rural Oregon and rural America—good for jobs, good for our communities, and just good common sense.”

The bill defines hemp as cannabis with 0.3 percent THC or less by dry weight and removes it from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). Regulatory authority over hemp moves from the DEA to the Agriculture Department. The definition of hemp in the bill includes all parts of the plant and specifically lists cannabinoids, including CBD, that are removed from control of the CSA. The bill also includes funding and authorization for research and authorizes crop insurance for hemp farmers.

The inclusion of CBD has the potential of greatly expanding the size of the legal hemp industry. Hemp-based CBD wellness products—a category that didn’t exist five years ago—already account for nearly a quarter of the domestic hemp market, and the Hemp Business Journal predicts they will account for nearly $650 million worth of sales by 2022, becoming the single largest sector of the hemp market.

It’s been more than 40 years since Jack Herer ignited the marijuana movement’s interest in hemp with The Emperor Wears No Clothes: Hemp and the Marijuana Conspiracy. Herer is long gone—he died at age 70 in 2010—but the movement he launched has now reached the promised land. The single most ridiculously unjustifiable aspect of federal marijuana prohibition has been killed; now it’s time to finish the job by ending federal marijuana prohibition.

About the Author

Phillip Smith writes for Drug Reporter, a project of the Independent Media Institute, and where this article was originally featured.

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Environment

Heineken Replaces Plastic Rings And Shrink Wrap With Cardboard

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Heineken
West Wind Heineken

Plastic pack rings, also known as hi-cones or yokes, are a standard packaging device used around the globe for more than 50 years already. These rings are used to hold together multipacks of canned drinks, particularly beer. They have profoundly contributed to the growing amount of plastic pollution in the oceans and are a significant threat to marine life.

Thankfully, Heineken is closing its doors to single-use plastic rings and shrink wrap from billions of multipack cans. Now, the company is replacing all of the plastic with eco-friendly cardboard!

A spokeswoman from the Marine Conservation Society said:

“This is an interesting development (from Heineken) and will help cut down the amount of plastic on our beaches and in our seas. These kinds of can yokes are regularly found on our beach cleans.”

Eliminating Plastic Packaging
The packaging has a finger hole to make it easier to carry the multipack. Photo credit: Heineken
The packaging has a finger hole to make it easier to carry the multipack. Photo credit: Heineken

These new can holders are made of recycled cardboard and are strong enough to take on the weight of a multipack. Heineken’s adoption of this cardboard alternative will lead to over 517 tones of plastic eliminated from the packaging of its brands.

The Dutch company has already invested £22m in new technology and production facilities at their sites in the UK. By April 2020, these sites should be ready to start rolling out the changes across the company’s most popular brands, including Heineken, Foster’s, and Kronenbourg 1664. Following after, all its other brands in multipack cans will change to the new material as well, such as Strongbow, Bulmer’s, Red Stripe, and John Smith’s. The company aims to accomplish this all by the end of 2021.

Out of the brewer’s 190 world markets, the UK is the first to introduce this new packaging. This change is a big step towards a less polluted future. The UK produces 530 million cans per year across all its brands; among these, Foster’s accounts for 150 million and Heineken 39.5 million.

The Demand For An Eco Alternative
Photo credit: Heineken
Photo Credit: Heineken

After BBC One’s Blue Planet II series highlighted marine litter, the majority of the public has backlashed over plastic packaging. The public’s reaction has prompted manufacturers and supermarkets to take action and convert to eco-friendly products.

The head of marketing at Heineken, Cindy Tervoort, said:

“It’s what our customers want and expect, and we have been working on and testing this innovation for three years.”

Additionally, Heineken claims that with the introduction of their new eco-friendly materials, carbon emissions associated with producing multipack cans will be cut by one third.

Other Brewers Finding Alternatives

In 2018, Carlsberg announced plans about replacing their rings with recyclable glue. Diegeo started to phase out plastic packaging from multipacks of its Guinness, Harp, Rockshore, and Smithwick’s beers and replaced it with cardboard packs.

In September 2019, Budweiser said that by the end of 2020, it would remove all single-use plastic pack rings from its entire selection of UK produced beer. This selection includes Budweiser’s bestselling brands such as Stella Artois, Budweiser, and Bud Light.

If you enjoyed reading this article and want to see more like this one, we’d be humbled if you would help us spread the word and share it with your friends and family. Join us in our quest to promote free, useful information to all!

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Sustainability

Austria Poised To Become First EU Nation To Fully Ban Glyphosate

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Photo Credit: Getty

Jessica Corbett, Common Dreams

Austria is on track to become the first country in the European Union (EU) to fully ban the world’s most commonly used herbicide after the nation’s lower house of parliament passed a bill Tuesday that would outlaw all uses of glyphosate, which researchers and global health experts have tied to cancer.

The scientific evidence of the plant poison’s carcinogenic effect is increasing,” the leader of Austria’s Social Democrats, Pamela Rendi-Wagner, said in a statement. “It is our responsibility to ban this poison from our environment.”

Glyphosate is a key ingredient in Roundup — a product of Monsanto, a U.S. company that merged with German pharmaceutical giant Bayer last year. Reuters noted that “it is now off-patent and marketed worldwide by dozens of other chemical groups including Dow Agrosciences and Germany’s BASF.”

In 2015, glyphosate was classified as a “probable carcinogen” by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer. Despite that designation, mounting public concerns, and a series of ongoing legal battles launched by cancer patients in the U.S., Bayer has maintained that Roundup is safe — and regulators in both the U.S. and EU have continued to permit the widespread use of the weed killer.

Katharina Rall, a researcher with the Environment and Human Rights Division at Human Rights Watch, welcomed Austrian lawmakers’ move as “good news.”

Following the lower chamber’s vote Tuesday, German broadcaster Deutsche Welle reported that “unless Austria’s upper house chooses to object the glyphosate ban, the bill will be signed into law by the country’s president, Alexander Van der Bellen.”

DW pointed out that the ban, if it takes effect, will put Austria at odds with the EU policy on glyphosate.

“This ban would apparently clash with E.U. rules, as, in 2017, the bloc cleared the herbicide for use for the next five years. The E.U. relies on the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Chemicals Agency which did not classify glyphosate as carcinogenic. However, reports from earlier this year indicated that some European regulators were copying and pasting from studies conducted by Monsanto itself.”

A spokesperson for Bayer told the Wall Street Journal, “We expect the European Commission to review this decision critically, as it may be inconsistent with mandatory legal and procedural requirements and scientific reasoning.”

The bill was also criticized on legal grounds by Austria’s right-wing People’s Party (OVP), which opposed the ban as “a slap in the face to farmers,” as well as the country’s sustainability ministry, which is responsible for agriculture and the environment.

However, Austria’s far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) joined with the liberal Neos party and the Social Democrats Tuesday in passing the bill. Putting that vote into context, Reuters explained that the country “is currently led by a provisional government of civil servants ahead of a parliamentary election expected in September. Political parties are forming shifting alliances to pass laws that appeal to their voters before parliament goes into recess this week until the election.”

Erwin Preiner, a member of the Austrian parliament for the Social Democrats who worked on the ban, told the Journal, “We want to be a role model for other countries in the E.U. and the world.

As of 2017, Austria had the highest portion of organic farmland among all EU member states — 23.4 percent, compared with the bloc’s average of just 7 percent. Though Austria’s action targeting glyphosate may be the boldest yet in Europe, the country is not alone in considering strict regulations of the weed killer.

Among Austria’s EU partners, France said in 2017 it hoped to ban glyphosate within three years, but President Emmanuel Macron has since said such a move could not be ‘100 percent,’” reported Agence France-Presse. “In May 2018, the French government pledged to ban glyphosate ‘for its main uses’ by 2021, and ‘for all of its uses’ within five years. In January 2019, French authorities banned the sale of Roundup Pro 360.”

About the Author

Jessica Corbett is a staff writer for Common Dreams. Follow her on Twitter: @corbett_jessica.

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Sustainability

“Plant For The Planet” Is Saving Our Planet By Planting Trees In Mexico

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“Plant For The Planet” Is Saving Our Planet By Planting Trees In Mexico

Reforestation is one of the most straightforward natural strategies for fighting climate change. Scientists estimated that such natural solutions could contribute to at least 30% towards winning the battle. It’s believed that by planting a trillion trees, the tide of climate change could turn around.

Forests currently take up as little as 30% of earth’s land; however, centuries ago, it was a lot more than that. Unfortunately, humans have eliminated almost half of the world’s trees. This is most likely true because as civilization expanded, humans have torn down forests to use the land for agriculture, mining, drilling, and other purposes. Thankfully, people are increasingly starting to recognizing the importance of forests.

Growing Forests To Fight Climate Change
Photo Credit: freethink.com

A team of Mexican conservationists in collaboration with Plant for the Planet, one of the world’s leading tree-planting organizations, has been working to plant at least 5 million trees in a town called Constitución in Campeche, Mexico.

Campeche is on the Yucatan Peninsula, in the southeast part of Mexico. Plant for the Planet specifically targeted this location because, in the Mexican region, trees grow four times faster than they do in Europe. Currently, over 100 plantation workers have been planting six different kinds of native, mahogany tree species across the region where there was once a forest. Since they first began their mission in 2016, the team has planted up to half a million trees in the area.

Plant for the Planet is a global forestation movement that has a goal of planting a trillion trees all around the world over the next three decades. Collectively, the organization has managed to plant about 14 billion trees around the world since 2006. Today, they are planting a new tree every 15 seconds!

  Photo Credit: Plant For The Planet
Photo Credit: Plant For The Planet
Deforestation

Deforestation is the removing or destruction of forests. Deforestation not only affects the animals who live in them but the people who live around them as well. According to The World Wildlife Fund, 80% of land animals and plants call forests their home. A majority of animals become extinct due to deforestation, such as the Hawaiian crow is now extinct in the wild.

Why Are Forests Important?
  • 80% of land animals and plants call forests their home.
  • Trees prevent soil erosion.
  • Many species need the essential cover that forests provide to thrive.
  • Forests reduce the risk of landslides and flooding.
  • Through photosynthesis, trees release oxygen into the air that we need to survive. Scientists estimate that a single tree can release 260 pounds of oxygen every single year.
  • Trees suck up harmful carbon dioxide and pollutants from the air.
Reforestation
  Photo Credit: Plant For The Planet
Photo Credit: Plant For The Planet

Plant For The Planet puts a lot of thought, care, and attention into their methods to ensure the trees’ survival. Their efforts begin in the nursery, where workers grow more than four million seedlings with the highest quality standards. Once the trees reach a specific height in the nursery, they’re extracted and sent off to be planted. The newly planted trees are then cared for by the forestry workers – they prune them and clear out any weeds.

Not only do these reforestation projects help bring trees and greenery back to the earth, but they also provide meaningful work and income to the local workers.

Good Example

The efforts of tree organizations are a good source of hope for the future of our climate, along with ecological benefits that go far beyond carbon sequestration. This project is a perfect example of what forest restoration efforts could look like, and It shows how easy it is to plant trees on a large scale efficiently.

This article (“Plant For The Planet” Is Saving Our Planet By Planting Trees In Mexicol) was originally created for Intelligent Living and is published here under Creative Commons.

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