By Ebele Orakpo
RESEARCHERS at the University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, have produced pulp, paper, cellulosic plastics, decorative textile costumes, fibre board and floor tiles from matured pseudostems (part of the banana plant that looks like a trunk) of plantain and banana. The items were exhibited at the sixth edition of Nigerian Universities Research & Development Fair (NURESDEF) held at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka.
Agric waste: Having watched as several tonnes of pseudostems of matured plantain (Musa paradisiaca) and banana (Musa sapientum) plants felled monthly in the rainforest zones of Southern Nigeria and the Cameroons as the fruits are cut off, waste away, the trio of Prof. Ukana Akpabio, Daniel S. Udiong (both of the Chemistry Dept) and Aniefiok E. Udofia (Vocational Education Dept.) decided to create something useful from the seemingly useless agricultural waste.
MSMEs: According to Akpabio, from the studies they carried out, they discovered the pseudostem waste can serve as raw materials for the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) for the manufacture of industrial substances and consumable goods.
Method: “The pseudostem waste was analysed and found to contain mostly cellulose, hemicelluloses and very low level of lignin. It was pulped and bleached, and converted into paper and cellulose plastics (cellulose acetates). The waste was also fabricated into pieces of household equipment and decorative textile costumes, fibre boards suitable for use as ceiling board and tiles,” said Akpabio.
High quality: “The qualities of these industrial products made from the pseudostem waste were good and compared well with those made with standard materials. The musa species have underground stem called rhizome and an aerial stem called pseudostem. The pseudostem is made up of leaf- folds and a central core.
The central core bears the fruits and when the fruits are matured, the entire plant is felled and the fruits cut off, while the remaining parts of the aerial stem are left to rot away. “The pseudostem of Musa species can be utilised in pulp and paper-making, production of cellulosic plastics (Akpabio et al.,2005), converted into sugar and bioalcohol (Akpabio et al., 2008), fabricated into decorative textile costumes (Akpan, 2014), fibre boards and floor tiles (Udofia, 2014).”
Continuing, Akpabio, a former consultant to Raw Materials Research and Development Council (RMRDC) on local Pulp, Paper and Publishing Materials, said the lignin, which binds the cellulose fibres together in the pseudostem is very low, usually less than five per cent as against over 25 per cent present in wood, the usual source of paper pulp; “this makes the pseudostem consume less chemicals during pulping, hence a cheaper source for the production of cellulose pulp both for paper-making and other uses.”