From Waste to Resource: A Systems-Based Approach to Sustainable Community Development through Equitable Enterprise and Agriculturally Derived Polymeric Composites
Rural communities in developing countries are most vulnerable to the plight of requiring repeated infusions of charitable aid over time. Micro-business opportunities that effectively break the cycle of poverty in resource-rich countries in the developing world are limited. However, a strong model for global commerce can break the cycle of donor-based economic supplements and limited local economic growth. Sustainable economic development can materialize when a robust framework combines engineering with the generous investment of profits back into the community. This research presents a novel, systems-based approach to sustainable community development in which a waste-to-resource methodology catalyzes the disruption of rural poverty.
The framework developed in this thesis was applied to the rural communities of Cagmanaba and Badian, Philippines. An initial assessment of these communities showed that community members are extremely poor, but they possess an abundant natural resource: coconuts. The various parts of the coconut offer excellent potential value in global commerce. Today the sale of coconut water is on the rise, and coconut oil is an established $3 billion market annually that is also growing rapidly.
Since these current industries harvest only two parts of the coconut (meat and water), the 50 billion coconuts that grow annually leave behind approximately 100 billion pounds of coconut shell and husk as agricultural waste. Coconuts thus provide an opportunity to create and test a waste-to-resource model. Intensive materials analysis, research, development, and optimization proved that coconut shell, currently burned as a fuel or discarded as agricultural waste, can be manufactured into high-grade coconut shell powder (CSP), which can be a viable filler in polymeric composites.
This framework was modeled and tested as a case study in a manufacturing facility known as a Community Transformation Plant (CTP) in Cagmanaba, Philippines. The CTP enables local creation of globally viable products from agricultural waste. This researcher seeks to encourage the propagation of CTPs throughout developing communities worldwide, each profiting from its own waste-to-resource value.