Peel power

UNATTRACTIVE mounds of banana peels are a common sight in rural Thailand. A project undertaken recently, aims at converting this waste into energy. Using biogas technology, the Solar Energy and Training Centre (sert) of Naresuan University in Thailand, is using this waste to procure biogas for basic rural energy requirements, besides cleaning up the local environment.

As a result of a rapidly expanding food industry in Thailand, high volumes of waste are generated. A survey in Bangkrathum district in Phitsanulok, revealed that it has an extensive 10,000 tonne (t) banana-drying industry, which annually accumulates 2,500 t of banana peels. Involving over 200 cooperative groups, these processing units discard the banana peel waste without proper treatment. The result is hazardous. Decomposing waste mounds crop up, an unpleasant odour emanates from these, with thousands of flies feasting on them. The rotting waste also releases methane and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere causing air pollution.

On the basis of this survey, the German Agency for Technical Cooperation (GTZ) offered technical and financial support to this project launched by sert. Under the direction of John O Donoghue, the project was started in late 1995. A biogas demonstration unit set up at Bangkrathum uses discarded peelings as a resource to generate energy in the form of biogas. In addition, the technology also provides quality fertiliser (both solid and liquid) and fish feeds as well.

sert recognises the project as an effective example of environmental protection through simple technologies. To effectively cover all components of the project, sert has also integrated local government organisations in the course of the project's operation.