KOCHI: To support the traditional work force in the coir sector, the National Coir Research and Management Institute has sourced the technology to manufacture coir fibre boards, an alternative to plywood, from the Netherlands. Apart from creating employment opportunities, the new venture will help in effective utilisation of coir pith, often discarded as waste. As announced in the state budget, the first manufacturing facility of binderless coir board is set to commence operations in Alappuzha within six months.
The coir industry in Kerala has been struggling to survive, facing tough competition from the highly mechanised Tamil Nadu industry. The search for innovative ideas helped the Kerala Coir Corporation to start the manufacture of coir geotextiles, which is being used for reinforcement of embankments. The decision to promote coir board has sown the seeds of hope for the embattled traditional coir workers.
“While the plywood industry uses binders and wood adhesives as bonding agents, the board made using coir pith is free of chemicals and will not have any negative impact on the health or environment. After removing the moisture content, the milled husk material is evenly spread in the mould and compressed at high pressure and temperature,” said National Coir Research & Management Institute (NCRMI) Director, Anil K R. A seminar will be held at NCRMI in Thiruvananthapuram on Tuesday in which researchers will seek to allay apprehensions. Jan Van Dam and Ir Edwin Keijsers, senior scientists at the Wageningen University and Research, Netherlands, will interact with the entrepreneurs.
“The idea to utilise coir pith and shearing waste to manufacture plywood will help to improve the income of the coir units while ensuring effective disposal of manufacturing waste. We have also decided to establish a unit in collaboration with a Bengaluru-based company to manufacture coir boards,” said Travancore Coco Tuft Managing Director V V Pavithran.
“At a time when the industry is in search of chemical free production of building panels, the potential use of the high lignin content in coconut husk as an adhesive is important,” said Anil.“Coconut husk can be used as the base material for the production of environment friendly, binderless, high performance board materials. The specific chemical composition of the coir fibre and its high content of lignin, can be used for the production of high quality coir fibre boards.
The coconut lignin melts above 140 °C and shows thermosetting properties, which makes it ideal for the intrinsic binder in board production. The coconut husk boards can be handled with common wood working equipment for drilling, sawing and polishing,” he said.Binderless coir board has a bright prospect of penetrating several other industries and markets, namely furniture, commodities export, coffin production and individual consumers, said Anil.