Ghana: Putting palm oil waste to good use
Unilever's Benso Oil Palm Plantation (BOPP) in Ghana is helping to protect the environment and cut costs by reusing waste from palm oil processing.
Using waste to fertilise our plantations
BOPP grows oil palms and extracts oil from the fruit at its processing plant. This creates solid waste (fibre and empty fruit bunches) and effluent that contains potentially valuable nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorous.
The effluent is not discharged to water sources where the nutrients can affect water quality in rivers and lakes. It is treated and used to fertilise the fields, significantly cutting fertiliser costs. Nearby streams are tested regularly to monitor for leaks from the pipes carrying the effluent to the fields.
Improving soil structure & reducing weeds
Empty fruit bunches, also rich in nutrients, are spread under the palms to improve soil structure and suppress weeds. However, transport costs are high for this bulky waste. To reduce these costs, composting before distribution is being assessed.
Waste fibre and shells are used as fuel for the boilers that produce steam for electricity generation and palm oil processing. Surplus waste, particularly shells, is sold to local organisations as fuel.
Further recycling opportunities are being investigated. For example, shells could be used to produce activated charcoal, fibre to stuff mattresses and boiler ash to make paving stones.
Another sustainability project at BOPP
Contour terraces were constructed in 1998 for planting on steeper slopes (more than ten degrees). These help improve soil and water conservation, increase yields and make harvesting easier. Although contour terraces are common in South East Asia, this is their first large scale use in West Africa.