Brazil Nut Waste Utilization Project

Brazil NutsBrazil nuts grow on trees in the Amazon Rainforest inside thick, coconut-like shells. A handful of nuts grow inside each “coconut” shell, and each nut has an outer shell of its own. Harvesting of Brazil nuts is done primarily by indigenous residents of the Amazonian regions of Peru and Bolivia. The “coconut” shells are cut down from the trees and broken open, and the nuts are removed. The nuts are then sent to processing facilities where they are each shelled, processed, and prepared for export. Consequently, the process creates huge amounts of nut shells, which are inedible and are currently piling up as waste in the harvesting and processing areas.

Staff from a company involved in the supply chain of Brazil nuts to the US approached EWB-USA in early 2014, stating that the communities of people who harvest and processed the nuts had requested to determine a way to use the waste nut shells in a manner which could benefit them. Processing of the Brazil nuts takes place primarily in the cities of Puerto Maldonado, Peru and Riberalta, Bolivia, and ATDT’s work will be initially concentrated in these areas. 

Brazil Nut Processing PlantBrazil_Nuts_and_Kids.jpg


EWB-NY ATDT Member Lauren Magin is working with a multi-chapter ATDT lead by Anthony Giamella from EWB-NJ to determine the best use for the waste nut shells, which would provide the greatest benefit to the community. The team is currently undergoing a study of both the needs of the people in the communities in Peru and Bolivia, and how the waste shells can possibly be used to benefit them. After extensive discussion and familiarization with the community members and all other stakeholders, ATDT will analyze and present their needs and capabilities in a rigorous stakeholder analysis. In parallel, ATDT is researching properties of the nut shells themselves, the harvesting and processing of the nuts, and potential uses for the nut shells. The community members have expressed a need for energy; an early research item for ATDT is possibly using the nut shells as biomass for energy generation. However, this is one of many potential options subject to analysis. The various options will be presented to project stakeholders and be subject to a selection process against established design criteria. The end product of this phase is the selection of the option(s) which would be most sustainable and of the greatest benefit to the communities.

The first assessment trip took place in December 2015. The team visited the communities and met with key stakeholders as well as local workers to explore solutions and how they can add value to the community. The main goal of this trip was to investigate the uses for the shells and ultimately determine which use will drive the design. A photo album of the trip is available here.

The ATDT team has been researching option such as using the Brazil nut shells as biomass feedstock to generate clean, renewable energy in the local region, as additive to construction materials such as drilling fluid, anti-slip paint, blasting, etc., water filtration, briquettes for cooking fuel, compost/fertilizer, jewelry/artifacts, etc.

An implementation trip is scheduled for March 2016. 


ATDT team







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