On a scorching hot summer day, what’s better to quench your thirst than with coconut water? Coconut water is known to have a lot of health benefits and some people even like to have it daily (in moderation). Not only this, a fully mature (brown) coconut is also used as offering to the Gods in temples, especially in the Hindu culture in India. So, what happens to the coconut shells and husk afterwards? For the tender coconuts, it is a common site for the coconut vendors to pile them nearby owing to lack of established infrastructure to recycle them despite them being clearly classified as dry waste. As for the mature coconuts, owing to the religious sentiments attached, sooner or later they end up in landfills as people refrain from throwing them in dedicated bins for dry waste recycling. This article discusses some of the efficient ways to recycle the shells and husks of coconuts to ensure they do not end up in landfills.
Recycling the husk
The coconut husk a.k.a., coir or coconut fibre is the outer “hairy” coating of the coconut especially visible in the mature (brown) coconut. The husk of the coconut consists of very strong fibres and hence, can be converted into value-added items like ropes, bio-degradable chairs and erosion control matting. Additionally, the by-product of the husk is the coco peat which is the light weight, corky material that holds together the coir fibre in coconut husk. Coco peat is being widely used for hydroponic agricultural practices.
Recycling the shell
Finally, people are starting to take note of the lack of proper infrastructure for recycling tender coconut, at least in Mumbai, India. The tender coconut shells have multiple reuse cases. For instance, they can be used to make low-cost, eco-friendly, DIY hutments or can be shredded and converted into mulch to protect the trees from erosion and harsh weather especially on hilly terrain.
The mature (brown) coconut shells can be recycled and converted to activated charcoal. Some companies like the ArSta Eco and the Sustainable Green Field Enterprise (SGFE) have come up with an innovative technique to convert coconut shell into charcoal to curb the environmental pollution caused by burning wood for fuel. Often in the backwards communities, the fire stove lit with wood sticks is a common source of heat for cooking. However, this fuel has a significant carbon footprint and is not eco-friendly. This combined with the need to recycle coconut shells can be solved jointly by converting the shells into eco-friendly charcoal. For this, the shells are dried, sifted and combined with other raw materials. Then, they are efficiently carbonized at 300-500°C for 3-5 hours, crushed, mixed and shaped into a convenient and efficient size, and finally dried to guarantee high performance. Aside from this, the coconut shell can also be used for making eco-friendly craft items or bowls.