Macadamia Shell BriquettesMacadamia nuts, a popular food that people enjoy all over the world, contain shells that often end up as waste. However, there are initiatives aiming to transform these shells into eco-friendly briquettes that drive sustainability and also advance efforts to alleviate poverty in many developing countries.

What Are Macadamia Shell Briquettes

As biomass waste products, macadamia nut shells can serve as a renewable energy source. By drying and pressing the shells into variously sized compact fuel blocks, the resulting briquettes can fuel cooking and heating systems or power boilers.

The Benefits of Macadamia Shell Briquettes

  1. Environmentally sustainable: As macadamia shells serve no other purpose, their reuse in the form of briquettes reduces the amount of waste in the environment. Also, this prevents deforestation and lowers carbon emissions by providing an alternative to traditional wood-and charcoal-burning methods. The burgeoning industry has seen success in South Africa, the world’s largest macadamia nut producer, with many shells to spare. Shisa Eco-briquettes is just one of the companies working to counteract the more than 2 billion tons of annual carbon dioxide emissions from forest degradation. Additionally, the organization is working to preserve natural resources for future generations with its macadamia shell briquette business.
  2. Income generation: With new industries, come new opportunities for employment and income for families living in poverty. Michael Duncan of Shisa Eco-briquettes works alongside four fully trained employees and documents the strong relationship between his company and their local community. “We try to uplift them in every way we can,” he said. Eyoh Alder Ventures, a company run by Muthoni Ndung’u in Kenya, also sells macadamia shell briquettes. Its aim is to “reduce hunger and poverty among rural farmers who are mainly women.” Ndung’u is just one of over 200 women empowered by The Charcoal Project, a nonprofit organization that supports “clean burning technologies.”
  3. Cost-effective and energy-efficient: Macadamia shell briquettes also save money for consumers. The shells are more affordable for people living in poverty. It allows people to save more and allocate their income to other needs. Ziwa Hillington of Ugandan company, Green Bio Energy noted that eco-friendly briquettes can be between 20% and 40% cheaper than other cooking fuels like charcoal. Macadamia shell briquettes also burn just as well as charcoal, in terms of both duration and temperature. This dispels any concerns about cost and energy efficiency.
  4. Health benefits: In 2022, the World Health Organization reported that almost 2.5 billion people worldwide lacked access to clean cooking material. Women and children in low-income and middle-income countries often succumb to diseases such as cancer, stroke and chronic lung disease. Charcoal and kerosene cooking materials were significant contributors to this crisis. Eco-waste briquettes are healthier alternatives, as the shells do not produce smoke or soot. Healthier families are more likely to be able to stay in education or employment and save what money would otherwise be spent on health care or treatment, and this strengthens both familial and local economies.

Positive Change

The growing success of macadamia shell briquettes shows how new innovations can help communities in a variety of interconnected ways. From health care to employment and sustainable local poverty reduction to environmental preservation, with far-reaching global benefits, the use of briquettes holds the potential for positive change and can potentially help nations fight poverty.
– Helene Schlichter
Photo: Pixabay

Renewable Energy in China
Environmentally-friendly sources of renewable energy have been championed for years not only for their benefits to the environment but also in terms of long-term cost-effectiveness and population health. China is particularly known for its commitment to clean energy, which is evidenced by its vast usage of solar energy and hydropower fueled resources.

Despite its usage of clean energy, China is heavily reliant on coal-powered activities. Recently, an analysis published by The Guardian outlined the effect of building “coal power plants in China” — the plants contribute to environmental pollution and exacerbate poverty. The unexpected effect of coal power plants is primarily explained by their inability to reach individuals in remote, rural areas and the fact that poor households often have insufficient access to electricity.

It is worth noting that despite increasing amounts of clean energy in China, the country has very high carbon dioxide emission rates. Significant carbon dioxide emissions can accelerate the effect of global warming. Global warming has undesirable effects on global poverty by increasing the frequency of radical weather changes, which can have a disproportionate effect on poorly built homes and farming prospects. A report by the World Bank suggests that an additional 100 million people can be afflicted by poverty by the year 2030, mainly as a consequence of climate change.

Rising carbon dioxide emissions have also been linked with numerous health risks. Carbon dioxide released from coal combustion can increase the risk of premature deaths due to air pollution. Through increased formation of ozone in the atmosphere, individuals are predisposed to conditions such as emphysema and cardiovascular disease, which can severely impair their quality of life.

In areas that are distant from mainstream sources of electricity, it is more pragmatic to build independent sources of renewable energy. Another important feature that characterizes developing countries is high unemployment rates and these can be addressed to some extent by the establishment of local renewable energy providers. Recently, it was estimated that approximately 8.1 million individuals globally are employed by the renewable energy industry.

With the multitude of benefits that renewable energy offers, what makes it so difficult for China to transition to a society that is completely reliant on clean energy? With coal comprising approximately 70 percent of China’s energy reserves, it is logistically difficult for the country to completely switch to renewable energy as this would cause a dramatic rise in unemployment. The costs of building new hydropower plants, solar powered systems and wind turbines also need to be factored.

In summary, the benefits of renewable energy sources outweigh the drawbacks by a significant margin. The objective to increase clean energy in China can be fulfilled by financial planning of involved costs, a thorough cost-benefit analysis of renewable energy and greater investment in sources of energy that facilitate a reduction in harmful carbon emissions.

Tanvi Ambulkar

Photo: Flickr