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9. Novel Technological Developments and Chemical Processing

A recent effort to diversify and encourage the further use of coir fibre has come from a research project implemented within the framework of the FAO Intergovernmental Group on Hard Fibres (IGG/Hard Fibres) and the Common Fund for Commodities (CFC). The project aims to develop new technologies to produce building and construction materials from non-retted coir husks. The increased ecological consciousness of the industrialised countries (particularly in Western Europe) has led to more interest in, and use of, renewable raw materials and environmentally safe products. A range of fibre based products have been introduced, or remain under development for automotive, building and construction, packaging and consumer goods and others industrial sectors.

Market possibilities of coir for selected applications should be evaluated – and continue to be evaluated - as a major programme of investigation required of coconut fibre producers and importers. It is not sufficient to remain with traditional markets. This should include the development of novel technologies to produce durable and ecologically safe building products such as boards, poles and panels with the use of green husks. Products such as these have the potential to add value to unprocessed green coconut husks, and to substitute for dwindling timber supplies and, ultimately, to reduce deforestation.

Other chemical processing technologies that should be explored and developed in the near future relate to ecological safe treatment processes. More work is recommended to enhance the suitability and use of coir fibre raw materials for fire retardation (for building applications, mattresses and similar uses) or for prolonged durability (for geotextile and horticultural substrate applications). It has been possible to demonstrate that coir fibres can be treated effectively by hydrophobation or acetylation35 on laboratory-scale, which will prolong the functional life-time of coir products by a factor of two or three.

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