Converting Coconut Husks into Charcoal

PHNOM PENH (Khmer Times) – After you enjoy the delicious meat of the coconut and its refreshing juice, the coconut shell can have a second use.

Carlo Figa Talamanca, owner of Sustainable Green Fuel Enterprise (SGFE), buys tons of empty coconuts and turns them into “green charcoal” – a fuel for cookstoves that can be used instead of wood or charcoal.

“In Cambodia 80 percent of people have cookstoves and use wood or charcoal for cooking,” said Mr. Talamanca. “At SGFE, we provide a substitute to traditional charcoal, which is from recycled biomasses.”

His charcoal is an alternative to wood charcoal, which cuts pressure on forests. Moreover, he says, coconut black “charbriquettes” burn longer than regular charcoal, and generate less toxic smoke.finalproducts

Clean Fuel = Clean Lungs

His green factory has received funding from The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, a United Nations initiative. The Alliance supports large-scale clean and safe household cooking technologies. The goal is to save lives, get the smoke out of kitchens, and reduce climate change emissions.

On the backs of Green Fuel charcoal bags, the company has printed drawings by students of the Royal University of Fine Art. The drawings support women’s education and respect for the environment. According to Mr. Talamanca, this is an easy way to reach the heart of the population, those who populate markets, households, restaurants and shops.

“We want to create a change,” he said. “Some of our customers cannot even read or write so this is a very effective way to reach them and convey important messages.”

Production Up 10-fold in Three Years

Green Fuel is growing. In 2012, the company had five employees who produced five tons of charcoal per month. Three years later, SGFE has 30 employees, producing 50 tons per month. Even so, as can be seen daily on Street 63, much of the city’s charcoal husks still end up in Cintri trucks.

As his company grows, Mr. Talamanca tries to contribute to social development. Many scavengers in the waste picker community live next to his factory and now have fulltime jobs at

Green Fuel. They have health insurance,13 months of salary and a safe job right next to where they live.

“Our employees are here with one condition: that they all send their children to school,” he added.

Coconut Husks: Precious Waste

On the block of Street 63, just north of Sihanouk, about a dozen vendors offers coconuts in different sizes and varieties. Eng Panha, 26, sells around 600 daily. He said he used to provide coconut shells to Green Fuel for free.But he then found he could make money selling sacks of husks to a company that produces coconut oil.

“Now I cannot sell coconut shells anymore,” said Mr. Panha. “Cintri forbids it, and we also need to give them some money. Otherwise they don’t come to pick up our coconut shells.”

Mr. Panha suspects Cintri, the company with the city contract for garbage collection, may be making money selling coconut shells.

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