Could Banana Fiber Replace Plastics and Chemical Fertilizers?

In Papua New Guinea, students work toward a brighter, greener future.

Tracey Bridcutt, Adventist Record
Could Banana Fiber Replace Plastics and Chemical Fertilizers?
Pacific Adventist University is currently involved in around 20 research studies. [Photo: Adventist Record]

Pacific Adventist University (PAU) is at the forefront of ground-breaking research that could bring significant environmental benefits to Papua New Guinea (PNG), school leaders recently said.

Several studies are underway at the Port Moresby campus. One is aimed at finding innovative pathways for the recycling of agricultural waste products such as banana fiber. The university farm — with its extensive plantation of more than 40,000 bananas — is ideally suited for the study.

The study is looking at how banana fiber can be used for sustainable natural products that could replace plastics and agricultural chemical fertilizers. With banana farming widespread across PNG, the ability to operate activities with zero environmental impact would be significant — and a first for the Pacific.

A second study is investigating the most suitable recipe for converting used vegetable oil into a quality biodiesel that is anticipated to be equivalent to the international standard.

“This is a research and development project — the findings of this study will be used to contribute to biofuel policies development in Papua New Guinea, as well as [promote] the reduction of environmental pollution in terms of used cooking oil, which is currently an environmental hazard in PNG,” Linta Qalopui, lecturer in the School of Science and Technology at PAU, said.

By recycling and converting the cooking oil into biodiesel, it can be used in diesel engines — cutting CO2 emissions by about 41 per cent compared to fossil diesel fuel. “This also provides an alternative and environmentally friendly fuel for Papua New Guinea going forward,” Qalopui said.

In early trials the biodiesel produced from the research was used to fuel five diesel motor vehicles without any engine modification and with trouble-free operation. The next stage of the study will assess how the converted oil affects engine performance in generators, water pumps, and many other diesel vehicles.

Linta Qalopui, lecturer in the School of Science and Technology, with biodiesel equipment. [Photo: Adventist Record]

The research is now attracting global attention — Qalopui has been invited to present at the fourth International Conference on Biofuels and Bioenergy in London in October.

Other environmental studies currently underway at PAU are looking at the impacts on the environment of the expanding palm oil industry in Kairak, East New Britain Province, and the hunting pressures on mammals in savannah and woodland forest in Southern Papua.

PAU head of Research and Post Graduate Studies Carol Tasker said students and their supervisors are involved in around 20 research studies relating to environmental, health, education, family, and other current issues.

“Recently PAU has also been asked to conduct research on [Adventist church] membership retention in PNG, and on literacy levels and [their] possible impact on church ministry,” Tasker said.

“We are excited about our research vision — ‘Exploring Resources, Expanding Horizons, Inspiring Hope’ — reminding us of infinite possibilities for learning more that can positively impact churches, families, and communities across the Pacific.”

The original version of this story was posted on Adventist Record.

Tracey Bridcutt, Adventist Record