Waste becomes charcoal

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Politicians are not usually known for getting their hands dirty, but Ken Robertson’s track record has seen him roll up his sleeves regularly to get services to rural communities.

Robertson has succeeded in another dirty task too – the production of braai briquettes. He and his wife Brigitte have produced briquettes that don’t leave your hands grubby. Free of chemical additives, this byproduct of a growing agricultural sector is produced from macadamia shells. The Robertsons recently saw the fruit of many years’ labour, research and development when they delivered their first load of Mc Nuts Briquettes.

 

Macadamia charcoal. Photo: Ken Robertson

Ken is familiar with macadamia farming and aware of the tonnes of excess shells left behind after processing the nuts. He was worried about general deforestation, so about eight years ago he started to investigate the possibilities of turning the shells into a usable product.

Charcoal soon came to mind, as he reasoned that being organic but very hard to crack, the shells should burn long enough to fuel a decent fire and produce perfect coals for a braai. Lots of research and development, capital, and experimenting with different ingredients followed as he was determined to keep the product’s green and chemical-free status.

After finding the best ‘recipe’ they imported machines to produce the product and arranged to purchase shells from local farmers. Robertson also sees it as a way of educating people on reusable and sustainable energy, and the importance of curbing deforestation. It takes 5kg of shells to produce 5kg of charcoal.

Environmentally-friendly charcoal. Photo: Ken Robertson.

The briquettes produce a flame of about 40cm before forming coals and stay hot for a long time. No nasty chemical smell is emitted while burning.

Robertson is satisfied that his product provides the ambience for a social gathering and the coals last long enough for any decent South African braai.

The Robertsons left nothing to chance – they designed the packaging themselves. A marketing trial on Facebook resulted in hundreds of offers to market Mc Nuts Briquettes.

Costs compare favourably with similar products on the market. Currently they’re available in select shops in the Lowveld towns of Hazyview and White River, and some of the private game reserves in the Greater Kruger area. For more information, mail info.mcnuts@gmail.com

Written by Mariana Balt

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