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Cleaning with coconuts: a faster, safer, cheaper response to spills

An innovative mind can detect a resource amongst rubbish and formulate a solution from scraps. Joe Davids spotted an unlikely answer to workplace hazards— coconuts.

From baking and cooking to health and beauty remedies, this versatile crop fills a variety of roles on a daily basis. While we often credit products made from coconut palm—the plant’s fruit—for oiling our cooking pans, quenching our thirst or soothing our chapped lips, the coconut’s robust husk, or coir, often goes overlooked.

While traveling through Sri Lanka in the 1980’s, Davids watched as the coconut fiber industry accumulated piles of discarded coir. It’s estimated that coconut fiber industries across Asia process more than 70 billion coconut husks each year. While industry had little use for the robust material, its abundance and organic nature inspired Davids.

He experimented with the material and found that it possessed impressive absorbent properties, particularly when he increased its surface area. Davids’ discovery led to a line of coir-based products, including SpillFix—a non-abrasive, fast-acting and cost-effective answer to industrial spills.

“Our method of manufacturing and blending it is to increase its surface area and increase its absorbency,” said David Roache of SpillFix. “It’s a terrific universal absorbent used for all kinds of liquids, including chemicals, polymers, paint and all kinds of hazardous liquids.”

Better for workers, better for the earth

When applied immediately to the edges of a spill, SpillFix wicks away potentially hazardous materials and stops the spill from spreading. In a matter of minutes, the product completely absorbs the spill, which can then be swept up with a broom and thrown away.

Other granular methods of cleanup, such as clay product nearly double the cost and time of a clean-up. They can also contain crystalline silica, a known carcinogen that can lead to inflammation and scarring in the lungs, which impairs their ability to take in oxygen.

“The terrific benefit of coconut product is that we add nothing to it—it’s all organic coconut husk,” Roache said. “As a result, it’s become a competitive product because the existing products out there like the incumbent sort of loose, granular absorbents.”

Utilizing an organic material that would otherwise have been thrown away not only reduces health risks, but also helps to curb environmental impact. Tested in California, the product meets the U.S. EPA standards for landfill disposal.

“If you look at the coconut coir under a microscope, it’s tubular in structure,” Roach said. “It grabs and encapsulates the oil so it won’t leach out.”

Time is money—SpillFix saves both

Because it’s lighter and more absorbent than its clay counterparts, SpillFix slashes costs for supply and disposal.

About 23 pounds of clay product are required to absorb one gallon of oil. This means that for every gallon of liquid spilled, companies will have to dispose of 30 pounds of waste.

Only 3.3 pounds of SpillFix is required to clean up a spill of the same size, reducing the weight for disposal to about 10 pounds.

“So, you’ve got a third of the waste,” Roache said. “When this is cleaned up, typically a service company is hired to come and collect the waste, and the customers are typically charged by the pound to have that transported and disposed of. So, you’re transporting a lot less weight while also disposing of less waste.”

The appeal of SpillFix’s ability to absorb more for a third of the cost has been gaining momentum within the energy industry.

“In the oil and gas business, we’re getting traction both upstream and downstream,” Roache said. “In the upstream, it’s typically used in the fields, used around equipment. Downstream, it’s primarily used in the petrochemical plants.”

SpillFix clients within the oil and gas industry include Baker Hughes, Weatherford International and Cub Energy. Baker Hughes recently recommended the product at a corporate level to all facilities for spill emergencies.

“It’s a green product; it’s landfill safe. It’s also non-carcinogenic,” Roache said. “So, you’ve got a green product that costs less, which you don’t hear too much of these days.”

Even with thorough training, the operations of any industry are vulnerable to mechanical and human error such as leaks or spills. SpillFix is unique for its ability to help oil and gas to practice quick, cost-effective and environmentally responsible spill clean-up.

To contact a distributor or to watch SpillFix in action, visit www.SpillFix.com.