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An ode to the coconut on World Coconut Day

The humble coconut, while not a nut, is far more than an ingredient in your curries or a humorous plot device in cartoons. Today, on World Coconut Day, we look at this drupe as a source of materials, because nearly any part of the coconut can be used to make one.

Of course, the easiest product to make from a coconut shell is a bowl (for instance to drink coconut milk from for the ultimate beach feeling). However, the wood-like material can also be made to make mosaics, like some examples by the company Nature@Home.

Coir is coconut fibre extracted from the husk of the coconut and the most commonly used coconut material. Mature coir fibres contain more lignin and less cellulose than fibres like flax and cotton, which means they are stronger, but less flexible. Coir is one of the few natural materials resistant to salt water, which is why white coir, harvested from unripe coconuts, can be used for, for example rope and fishing nets. The company Kurkfabriek van Avermaet uses the material as insulation.

Coir can also be mixed with other materials like latex to make it more rigid, but mouldable. Cocoform and Coquim are examples of this. ReWrap even made a bag using this material.

The company Artigo uses coconut fibres in their rubber flooring Kayar.

To make a board alternative, coir and other agricultural waste can be mixed. The company Kokoboard uses coir and coconut dust for their board material.

Students from the Universidad de los Andes in Colombia developed a wool alternative using coir. The coir is mixed with hemp fibres, but because both fibres are relatively stiff, the students use enzymes from oyster mushrooms tod degrade the lignin present in both fibres, to make them soften and more wool-like.

The company Nanollose created the world’s first tree-free rayon, made from cellulose from biomass waste, amongst which coconut fibres.

Even coconut water can be used to make material. The company Malai Design & Materials created a biocomposite material made from organic bacterial cellulose, grown on waste coconut water. Malai, as the material is called, can be used as a leather alternative and can be moulded as well.

The coconut tree only grows in length, not width. The trunk has a width of 20 to 35 cm, and the tree can grow up to 40 metres tall. Once the tree stops carrying coconuts, its wood can be used for other purposes, such as a hardwood floor.

Photo credits: see photos