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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Coco Trash to Coco Cash

Air Date: Week of

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Scientists are finding new uses for the fibrous husks of coconuts. Living on Earth’s Liz Gross reports.


GELLERMAN: It's Living on Earth, I'm Bruce Gellerman.

Coming up– using the salt of the earth to clean the planet - but first this note on emerging science from Liz Gross.

[MUSIC: The Hit Crew “Coconut (Put The Lime In The Coconut) from Berry Special Party Music (TUTM Entertainment 2008)]

GROSS: Many a song has been inspired by the inside of a coconut – the sweet milk and the snow white meat. But what about the outside? The fibrous husk, which accounts for more than a third of the mass of a coconut, is often thrown away. But now, engineers have found a way to turn this coconut trash into cash.


GROSS: Researchers at Baylor University in Texas have come up with a method to mold fibers from coconut husks into car parts, including trunk liners, floorboards and interior door covers. The coconut fibers are just as strong as the synthetic polyester currently used for the production of these parts, but have some added benefits for farmers, manufacturers, and the environment.

Coconuts are a renewable resource, abundant in countries all around the equator, including India, the Philippines, Brazil and Indonesia. Almost all of the 50 billion coconuts grown every year come from small farmers, who earn, on average, less than two dollars a day. Using the discarded husks to make car parts increases the value of each coconut. The research team hopes that increasing demand could allow coconut farmers to triple their incomes.

Meanwhile, the price of the car parts stays the same, or lower, than it was before. If the auto companies can be sold on the idea, we may be singing the praises of the whole coconut – from inside to out…

That’s this week’s note on emerging science, I’m Liz Gross.



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