Printing cash with durian waste

KUALA LUMPUR, 9 June 2023:

Malaysian durians, especially the kampung varieties, used to be so cheap that you could get a large fruit for just RM3.

It’s hard to imagine such affordable prices being commonplace back in the late 1990s – before exports began in earnest to what was the 2000s’ world’s largest consumer market of China.

As durian prices shot up due to local supply drying up, an alarming change took place – where durians were sold by weight, rather than by fruit. This caused an average durian’s price to surge from RM5-10 to easily RM50-60 per fruit, depending on the hybrid variety offered. Among the most popular were ‘Musang King’ and ‘Black Thorn’.

Unfortunately, high durian prices also produced lots more waste – since consumers paid for the entire fruit by weight, even though the pulpy succulence was the only part actually eaten. In effect, only about a fifth or at most a quarter of the fruit was eaten, even though the full price was paid.

Since the durian husk waste was also paid for by consumers, sellers couldn’t be bothered to dispose of them properly – resulting in a stinking mess that ends up producing flammable gases in landfills.

Durian husks into cash

Anyone who can repurpose these durian husks will be able to reap huge earnings as this raw material can be obtained for literally nothing!

Among those who have seen this potential are Professor Dr Hazleen Anuar at the Department of Manufacturing and Materials Engineering, International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM).

Her research team had previously transformed durian husks into cargo palettes, using the same process of grinding the fully dried waste to produce chipboards.

Expanding on the same technology, this university team have made some significant process to produce a higher value item – 3D-printing filaments.

The base process is similar, starting with plastic polymerisation to form the foundation material. The dried and finely ground durian husks are then mixed together with the plastic resin to form a slurry = which is then extruded to form long thin filaments ideal for 3D-printing.

IIUM’s research team had so far produced only small quantities of this 3D filament and there is still some ways to ramp up the process to commercial viability.

Once this process becomes viable, it will then be possible to have all kinds of 3D-furniture and items produced from now-discarded during husks – creating a new revenue stream, rather than just being burnt and buried in landfills.

Even more interesting is the prospect that durian prices may stabilise at the current level or even drop – because the husk is more valuable a commodity when compared to the tasty pulp.