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Olive waste is helping to heat homes in Syria

Locals in Syria’s Idlib province have discovered an eco-friendly way of generating fuel and heating their homes using olive waste.

As COP26 highlighted, the burden of innovating clean power by no means falls on developing nations. But that doesn’t mean they haven’t got sustainable and affordable ideas of their own.

In Syria’s north-western Idlib province, locals have found an ingenious alternative to diesel – which is typically used to heat homes throughout the winter months – in bountiful olive trees.

We usually associate olives with the Greeks and a nice dunkable bowl of olive oil with the Italians, but you’d be forgiven for not knowing that Syria (the native land of olives) is utilising the small fruit for the biggest cause of all.

As the region recovers from a decade long war, the price of diesel has steadily risen all but forcing Syrian people to look for short-term solutions to keep the power on and stay warm. What they stumbled on, however, has the potential to be far more than just a stop gap.

A factory has opened up in the town of Armanaz where olive waste is somehow transformed into eco-friendly biomass fuel, whilst the good stuff is presumably shipped off elsewhere in barrels.

Here, the pulpy olive seed residue deemed too gross for supermarket bottles, called birin, is pressed in a special machine before being dried into cylinder shaped pellets in sunlight. Entirely free to produce, this olive fuel is churned out by the ton and is constantly revolving on a 15 day basis

Made readily available to local residents and merchants, a ton of birin reportedly costs around 200 euros, which is half the price of the same quantity in diesel.

As Syria’s fossil fuel supply continues to diminish, it looks as though birin will step up to take its place in the years ahead. Olive forests in Syria are thick and abundant with trees living some 1,000 years and literally bearing fruit up until their dying days.

Now that they’ve become a source for big profit, you can bet such trees will sprout up at an even faster rate across the region.

Only last weekend at COP26, a contentious point saw a lack of financing to help developing nations deal with climate change. In this instance, however, the ingenuity of the Syrian people has solved a key issue for the nation without intervention.

Elsewhere, when it comes to phasing out fossil fuels, nations are looking to cut back on the aviation industry’s carbon toll. To date, SAF (sustainable aviation fuel) has powered 150,000 flights, and the likes of the UK and Sweden are determined to grow that number exponentially.


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