Approximately 21 million pallets are needed each year for the export of fruit from the tropics. These pallets need large amounts of wood and too much energy is consumed in their distribution. Start-up Yellow Pallet makes pallets from banana fiber; a more sustainable option that counters deforestation.
Banana plants grow fast and are abundantly available. “That makes them very suitable to make into pallets,” says Hein van Opstal, founder of Yellow Pallet. Their first factory is stationed in Costa Rica.
The company supplies banana pallets to, for example, Chiquita and Agrofair, two of the largest fruit exporters in the world. The pallets are not yet made 100% out of banana fiber, as the planks are still made from wood. But the blocks between the planks are made out of compressed fiber from banana plants. This already saves eighteen percent on CO2 emissions. What’s more, it’s slightly cheaper than wood.
Wageningen University & Research in the Netherlands focuses on agro-food and the living environment and has been researching banana plants for several years. Researcher Gert Kema and entrepreneur Hein van Opstal came into contact with each other through mutual contacts. They saw a gap in the market for banana pallets.
They set up Yellow Pallet in 2012 with funding from StartLife, a Dutch foundation that in close cooperation with the university guides spin-offs and start-ups to the market. “This is a prime example of an experienced entrepreneur developing part of the research into a product and bringing it to the market,” says StartLife director Jan Meiling. This knowledge was transferred from the university to the company so that it could be further developed.