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VietNamNews

Coconuts help to clean the air

Update: February, 17/2019 - 09:00
Lê Thị Hiền introduces her product to a client. – photo danviet.vn
Viet Nam News

When fires burn, the smoke that goes up makes the air dirty.

However, there is now a way to make a fire from charcoal that does not let out smoke.

This charcoal is made from coconut shells.

It is the idea of Lê Thị Hiền who cares a lot about the environment.

HCM CITY ­– From discarded coconut shells, one engineer in HCM City has successfully manufactured smoke-free charcoal which is not harmful to people’s health, helping to reduce environmental pollution.

She is Lê Thị Hiền, a food technology engineer born in 1984 in the central province of Quảng Trị’s coastal Vĩnh Linh District.

After graduating from university in HCM City, Hiền started businesses dealing with coffee and starch products but failed to find success.

Throughout it all, she was concerned about the abundant discarded agricultural byproducts.

The idea to manufacture organic charcoal came to her by chance.

“Three years ago, one of my foreign business partners asked me to produce non-smoke charcoal for the Arabian market to use in smoking shisha,” she recalled.

Recognising that the opportunity was consistent with her long-held desire to use agricultural byproducts, Hiền immediately accepted the proposal and rushed into research.

"If it was made from wood, the sense of environmental protection was meaningless,” Hiền told online newspaper khoahocphattrien.vn. “We would have to destroy the forest for firewood. Moreover, my partner asked me to make organic charcoal.”

“So, I decided to look for coconut shells," she said.

The southern province of Bến Tre – home of many of the country’s coconuts – produces more than 25 million coconuts every year.

This huge scale of production means 9,000 tonnes of coconut shells are discarded every month.

Hiền realised that Bến Tre’s coconut byproducts were the perfect raw materials for producing organic charcoal.

First, Hiền had to figure out how to make the shells burn cleanly. Normally, they burn carbon and emit smoke.

Equipped with knowledge from her time in the food industry and extensive research, Hiền realised that solving the issue of coal smoke required adhesive agents.

“I used cassava starch as glue rather than using chemicals,” she said. “In addition, when burning coconut shells into charcoal, I used an anaerobic method to solve the smoke issue which badly affects the environment.”

After honing her charcoal burning technique, she started to produce it on a trial basis.

“The very first days of manufacturing the shell charcoal were a hard time,” Hiền recalled.

In 2005, Hiền drove her shoddy old motorbike around to collect coconut shells from processing plants and cafes in and around HCM City, even going as far as Bến Tre Province, 85km far from the city.

After obtaining the raw materials, she personally went to hire coal-fired kilns to burn the shells.

“Every day, I had to work with the charcoal kilns to supervise the work, and then I shaped the charcoal powder into small pieces,” she said. “On those days, I looked like a mine worker with black powder covering me from head to toe.”

After two years of research and production, Hiền was ready to present her organic charcoal.

The charcoal emits no smoke, odour, sparks, or chemical adhesive agents.

In addition to these four main advantages, her charcoal produces white, easily soluble ash perfect for grilling or smoking shisha.

Her “4 Nos” charcoal received first prize at the 3rd Agriculture Start-up Project Competition in 2017.

Market expansion

Despite this recognition, Hiền found that the new product was not readily accepted in the market because the use of wood-based charcoal and coal is a longstanding habit that could not be changed overnight.

Hiền said her group had to spend about two months doing market research and finding out which restaurants were using wood charcoal, coal and sawdust coal so as to approach them and convince them to switch to the new product.

Her team discovered that there were about 300 barbecue restaurants in the city using 1,000 tonnes of coal and charcoal every month. She knew these restaurants were her potential customers.

Gradually, the new charcoal was accepted in the market. On average, Hiền now sells between 10 and 30 tonnes of coconut charcoal every month across the country.

After all the hard work and hardship, Hiền is sure that “the choice to make organic coal was absolutely right.”

“My childhood was close to the sea, playing in the waves and the wind,” Hiền said. “I loved nature and wished to make an environmentally friendly product.” – VNS


 

GLOSSARY

From discarded coconut shells, one engineer in HCM City has successfully manufactured smoke-free charcoal which is not harmful to people’s health, helping to reduce environmental pollution.

Manufactured means “made”, usually in a factory.

After graduating from university in HCM City, Hiền started businesses dealing with coffee and starch products but failed to find success.

Graduating at university means passing your degree.

Starch is a white substance that is found in plants and is an important part of many humans’ diets.

Throughout it all, she was concerned about the abundant discarded agricultural byproducts.

If something is abundant there is a lot of it.

Discarded means thrown away.

Agricultural means “to do with farming”.

Byproducts are things that are produced while making something else.

The idea to manufacture organic charcoal came to her by chance.

Organic means produced without using chemicals and fertilisers.

Three years ago, one of my foreign business partners asked me to produce non-smoke charcoal for the Arabian market to use in smoking shisha,” she recalled.

Shisha is a type of tobacco.

Recognising that the opportunity was consistent with her long-held desire to use agricultural byproducts, Hiền immediately accepted the proposal and rushed into research.

To recognise something means to accept it.

An opportunity is a chance to do something.

Consistent means “keep going at the same pace”.

A desire is a wish.

A proposal is a plan on how to proceed with an idea.

Research means work towards finding out more about something.

Normally, they burn carbon and emit smoke.

Carbon is a chemical element that is in charcoal and other fuels.

To emit smoke means to give off smoke.

Equipped with knowledge from her time in the food industry and extensive research, Hiền realised that solving the issue of coal smoke required adhesive agents.

To be equipped with knowledge means to own valuable knowledge.

Required means needed.

Adhesive agents are substances that stick.

“In addition, when burning coconut shells into charcoal, I used an anaerobic method to solve the smoke issue which badly affects the environment.”

An anaerobic method is one that does not involve the use of oxygen.

After honing her charcoal burning technique, she started to produce it on a trial basis.

Honing means sharpening.

A technique is a way of doing something.

To produce something on a trial basis means to produce it as an experiment.

“The very first days of manufacturing the shell charcoal were a hard time,” Hiền recalled.

Recalled means remembered.

In 2005, Hiền drove her shoddy old motorbike around to collect coconut shells from processing plants and cafes in and around HCM City, even going as far as Bến Tre Province, 85km far from the city.

Shoddy means not smart.

After obtaining the raw materials, she personally went to hire coal-fired kilns to burn the shells.

Obtaining means getting.

“Every day, I had to work with the charcoal kilns to supervise the work, and then I shaped the charcoal powder into small pieces,” she said.

To supervise means to watch over something as well as be in charge of it.

In addition to these four main advantages, her charcoal produces white, easily soluble ash perfect for grilling or smoking shisha.

Advantages are things that make life easier.

If something is soluble, it can mix very easily in a liquid.

Despite this recognition, Hiền found that the new product was not readily accepted in the market because the use of wood-based charcoal and coal is a longstanding habit that could not be changed overnight.

A habit is something someone does a lot, often without thinking.

Hiền said her group had to spend about two months doing market research and finding out which restaurants were using wood charcoal, coal and sawdust coal so as to approach them and convince them to switch to the new product.

Sawdust means wood shavings.

To convince someone to do something is to persuade them that it is a good idea.

Her team discovered that there were about 300 barbecue restaurants in the city using 1,000 tonnes of coal and charcoal every month. She knew these restaurants were her potential customers.

Potential means possible.

WORKSHEET.

State whether the following sentences are true, or false:

1.There are many coconuts in the province of Bến Tre.

2. Bến Tre is a northern province.

3. Lê Thị Hiền once drove an old motorbike.

4. Lê Thị Hiền grew up far away from the sea.

5. Lê Thị Hiền’s  “3 Nos” charcoal received first prize at the 4th Agriculture Start-up Project Competition in 2017.

 

 

 

ANSWERS:

 

© Duncan Guy/Learn the News/ Viet Nam News 2019
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. True; 2. False; 3. True; 4. False; 5. False.

 

 

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