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’s taking action to change this!
What is 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. 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 fiber 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.
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!