Could You Package Chocolate And Coffee Using Cocoa Pod Waste?

by Rudy Sanchez on 02/15/2021 | 3 Minute Read

Despite being neatly portioned, prepared, and packaged, most of our food does not come ready-to-eat from nature. Most food requires some degree of processing, and often, there are parts of crops that are undesirable, unappetizing, or inedible. Sometimes those parts can be easily repurposed, like dried corn husks for tamales. 

The cocoa plant, the primary ingredient of chocolate, is made from the beans inside large, protective pods. Once dried and marketable, about 90% of the cocoa pod is considered waste. This byproduct presents a significant problem for several reasons. According to the non-profit Swiss Platform for Sustainable Cocoa, the 2018-2019 global yield from cocoa was 4.8 million tons globally, and that production will generate a significant amount of trash. That can present a problem to local communities by polluting local waterways, cause flooding, and block water drainage systems. In addition to the environmental considerations, diverting cocoa waste into a usable form would create commercial opportunities for what some consider garbage.

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Research into discarded cocoa parts has inspired newfound uses for agricultural waste, including animal feed, potash, fertilizer, and even booze. Scientists are testing the feasibility of turning cocoa bean byproducts into biofuel, which can even outperform ethanol and coal.

Like other plant materials, the viability of using cocoa waste as an alternative source of packaging has also been explored, with promising results. In one study, cellulose from cocoa waste proved to be a viable alternative to traditional sources such as trees. UK-based papermaker James Cropper has used cocoa husk to make paper, which could even wrap your favorite chocolate treat. Kajkao is another project aimed at turning cacao waste in South America into plastic alternatives.

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Editorial photograph

Design consultancy PriestmanGoode recently used discarded cocoa bean shells to create a sustainable takeout concept. The reusable packaging, dubbed Zero, took a nod from Japanese bento boxes, and restaurants can stack the durable containers on top of one another. Kocoatrait chocolate uses discarded cocoa husk paper, making for a zero-waste snack.

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Since cocoa grows within twenty degrees latitude of the equator, the economic advantages of commercially viable uses to the ordinarily discarded parts of the harvest have significant potential to improve the lives in the regions where cocoa is grown. It could also make a sizable dent in reducing our reliance on non-biodegradable materials globally. The largest producers include the Irovy Coast, Ghana, and Ecuador, nations not known as economic powerhouses. The caloric consequences of indulging in sweet, luscious chocolaty delicacies probably can’t easily be scienced away. But some of that decadence can be assuaged with new wrappers that divert related agricultural trash while providing economic opportunities for the people that produce the cocoa that fuels the world’s chocoholism. 

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Lakò's Kajkao.

We can utilize the discarded parts of the cocoa pod to develop a variety of materials, from paper to laminates and flexible packaging. And because they are from organic matter, they can get made to degrade safely with no negative impact on the environment. So, yeah, your chocolate and coffee can get a whole lot more sustainable and even get packaged in the same shell they originated from.

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