Researchers conducted a study that shows that approximately 15.3 billion trees are cut down annually which are mainly used for manufacturing. Even though wood is not a key ingredient for manufacturing products, scientists have been developing alternatives and their task runs slow. A Dutch start-up, CocoPallet, manufactured transport pallets which will change the trend of using wood.
CocoPallet’s redesigned pallets are constructed with coconut husks that are recycled. This product is completely durable, organic, cheaper, and lighter than wood. This concept will save over 200 million trees from being cut down annually that will be used for traditional shipping pallets.
Researchers at Wageningen University originally developed this technology and it was commercialized by the founder of CocoPallet, Michiel Vos.
Twenty years ago, a plant scientist at Wageningen University, Jan Van Dam, was shown something by a man from Indonesia that he couldn’t believe. At that time, Van Dam was specializing in the development of plant fiber materials.
Van Dam made an interview on a Dutch news source in which he stated: “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.”
A recyclable product like this is needed especially in Asia where the waste of coconut is plentiful.
Van Dam added that “I saw a huge potential here. Mainly in Asia, enormous amounts of coconuts are produced, which leads to a huge pile of wasted coconut husk. In many tropical countries, the coconut waste is rotting away by the side of the road 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 the farmers an extra income, because their waste is worth money, and you prevent the material from slowly rotting away, reducing pollution and climate change.”
However, Van Dam was unsuccessful in his mission to create pallets made out of coconut shells in the Philippines.
Van Dam explains that “Due to local circumstances, it failed. For example, there was no sufficient power supply.”
Michiel Vos asked Van Dam years later for advice on how to create the alternative to wood.
“I ended at Van Dam. ‘Why don’t you use coconut husk,’ he asked? ‘It contains the glue as well as the materials to glue together. And anywhere in Asia, it is found almost for free on the side of the road.’ Stunned, I left his office with his final report under my arm,” Vos stated.
This type of technology was the perfect idea for pallet manufacturing, especially in Asia.
Vos explained that “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.”
He added that “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.”
CocoPallets made the best innovation since the waste of manufacturing can be recycled, the product is sustainable, and at the same time, they are saving millions of trees.