Charcoal briquetting can save trees, says DENR scientist

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By Alexander Villafania

QUEZON CITY, METRO MANILA – Even while charcoal is considered damaging to the environment (whole tree fields are burned down to produce charcoal, which in turn also releases more carbon in the air when burnt) one type of charcoal product is being pushed as a more eco-friendly alternative to wood burning: charcoal briquetting.

According to an executive from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Ecosystem Research and Development Bureau (DENR-ERBD) charcoal briquetting actually saves trees from being burnt down.

This is largely due to the fact that materials used for charcoal briquetting are from other plant parts, such as leaves, twigs, and roots. Such materials are essentially biomass that are often discarded or broken down to be used as fertilizer.

Unlike ordinary charcoal, charcoal briquettes are made from agricultural waste materials that are first burnt then bound together with starch to form round or square bricks. When used for burning, charcoal briquettes burn almost half the rate but produce just the same amount of heat as ordinary charcoal.

According to DENR-ERBD Senior Science Specialist Gregorio Santos Jr., a ton of charcoal briquettes is equivalent to saving around 88 trees that are about 10 centimeters in diameter. He said that producing 79,200 kilograms per year of charcoal briquettes would save around 6,790 trees per year.

Santos added that around 153,331.2 kilos of carbon can be sequestered per year. Carbon sequestration is reducing the amount of carbon produced into the environment from burning or organic material.

In addition, using charcoal briquettes in farms and homes instead of ordinary charcoal would save 590 tons per year of fuel wood.

“Shifting to charcoal not only puts forest wastes into good use but also helps mitigate carbon dioxide emission in the atmosphere and lessens the depletion of the country’s forest resources. CB reduces pollution, especially carbon dioxide due to the conservation of our forest resources,” Santos said.

Apart from the DENR, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) has also been promoting carbon briquette-making, especially in agricultural regions and those with agro-forestry.

A number of scientists have been researching on the most effective charcoal briquetting processes as well as available raw materials, some of which include discarded materials from fruits and nuts.

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