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Brazil: Exportable biomass from açai residues

General information
Project location: Belém, Brazil
Consortium: World Wide Recycling BV + VBA do Brasil Ambiental + ICCO
Project Budget: Euro 1.5 million
External financing: PSI, IDB, IFC
Project period: 1-1-2011 until 31-12-2012

Açai palms are indigenous to the flood plains of the Amazon River in northern Brazil. Its fruit is processed into a nutritious pulp that is locally consumed and increasing exported. The açai berry comprises a solid pit (kernel) that accounts for 80% of its volume. Following a process of drying, cleaning and defibring, the açai pits are an excellent biofuel that can be compared to biomass pellets currently traded in the European market. Most of the açai residues left over from processing end up as waste on the municipal landfill or illegal dump sites.

While preparing an investment project in wood pellets in Belém, World Wide Recycling BV realized the opportunity of adding value to the unused açai residues by producing exportable biomass for co-generation in power plants in Europe. Moreover, by avoiding organic waste methanisation, the project contributes to curbing the emission of harmful greenhouse gases and therefore should qualify under the Clean Development Mechanism, thus generating additional income from carbon credit sales. ICCO at the same time was already working with waste pickers (catadores) in Belém along with counterpart organizations.

WWR and ICCO together worked out a project that would fulfil objectives of both parties by organizing the collection of açai residues mainly through catadores (waste pickers), so that new income earning opportunities are created for some 150 disadvantaged people. They plan to consolidate their cooperation by participation of ICCO in VAR do Brazil Ambiental Ltda, set up by WWR in 2003. The biomass plant will initially have an annual output capacity of 50,000 tons and employ 40 staff. It is foreseen that the capacity will be tripled shortly after completing the PSI project.

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