Juice Company dumps thousands of tons of Orange Peels in Deforested area; After 16 years, this is what it looks like now
Even as we speak of global warming and the apathy of governments or populations to protect the environment, there are several conservationists working selflessly to rejuvenate the Earth. One such couple is Daniel Janzen and Winnie Hallwachs.
In 1997 two ecologists from the University of Pennsylvania, Daniel Janzen and Winnie Hallwachs hit upon an incredible idea that would lead to the conservation of forest land on a massive scale and they did it with just orange peels and with the help of a local orange juice company called Del Oro in Costa Rica. It would take just orange peels to grow an ecosystem as you will find as you read on.
The ecologists approached the orange juice company with the offer of donating a small piece of deforested land to the Era de Conservacion, Guanacaste in Costa Rica. In return they would be allowed to dump all their orange peel waste for free. The Company readily agreed.
1Costa Rica is a leading nation in environmental conservation
Costa Rica is a small country which does not even have a standing army. However, Costa Rica deserves world recognition because, since the eighties, it has been a model country and leader in environmental preservation. It is insanely beautiful and is known for its biodiversity. The Federal government protects 25% of the country and money is poured into its various conservation schemes that have created thousands of jobs for its population.
Costa Ricans are extremely proud of their status as one of the greenest countries on earth. The country spares no effort in maintaining the beautiful eco-system and is extremely proud of it. Costa Rica is full of pristine and beautiful beaches lined thick with vegetation like the one below.
2 12,000 metric tons of orange peel dumped a year later
Just a year later, the company dumped 12,000 metric tons of orange waste brought by thousands of trucks who drove to the site. The waste consisted of sticky orange compost and orange peels. Unfortunately, the dumping was shut down by the Supreme Court because of legal public action was taken by a rival company Tico Fruit. They argued it was unhygienic and attracted flies. The orange peels remained and were forgotten about.
For more than 10 years the land remained in obscurity without any public intervention as the issue wasn’t discussed anymore. But then after 16 years, Janzen sent another student Timothy Treur to check out the spot. He also asked him to find the yellow sign he had put up as a marking.
3The signs could not be located
Timothy Treur reached the spot in Guanacaste and was amazed at what he found. Treur just could not find the sign. He phoned Janzen for more details and went back a week later but still no luck. They knew that the spot was the correct one which they had agreed upon with the company 16 years ago. The look of the entire land was shocking and hard to believe. It looked like a new ecosystem thick and lush with vegetation.
The 12000 metric tones of orange peel had actually fertilized the entire area. It had acted like natural compost and enriched the ground transforming it into the rich fertile soil.
4All it took was discarded fruit peels to make an entire forest
Treuer and his team from Princeton University studied the entire area for three years and published the research in a journal. It was amazing how discarded fruit had contributed to a new ecosystem. There was an adjacent spot where no orange peels had been dumped and it featured just one species of tree but Janzen’s site hosted over two dozen different spies of vegetation.
The soil was rich and the forest canopy showed healthier growth and stronger trees which were massive in size. What the study tried to prove was the fact that an ecosystem could benefit more from a secondary forest growth after any deforestation has occurred. It could also slow down climate change. All it takes is the vegetative waste like orange peels to grow an ecosystem. “It was just hard to believe that the only difference between the two areas was a bunch of orange peels. They look like completely different ecosystems,” Treur explained.
5Orange peels to save one part of the planet
The research also discovered that new forest growth absorbed and stored CO2 in the atmosphere 11 times more than an old forest growth. According to Treuer, if the experiment was replicated worldwide, the planet’s atmosphere would be able to restore itself. “We don’t want companies to go out there willy-nilly just dumping their waste all over the place, but if it’s scientifically driven and restorationists are involved in addition to companies, this is something I think has really high potential,” He said.
Treur finally found the sign in 2015 after clearing a section of the vegetation. The amazing results were published in the journal “Restoration Ecology” and highlighted how discarded fruit parts can completely revive dying or barren vegetation.
6Researchers also found trees of gigantic size
Janzen’s sign still stands there today. In addition to the lush growth, researchers also found a dog-sized weasel and a fig tree that seemed a gigantic size and three feet in diameter in the same plot. Jon Choi who conducted the major part of the analysis and also authored the paper said: “You could have had 20 people climbing in that tree at once and it would have supported the weight no problem, that thing was massive.”
It goes to show how such efforts and a bit of creative innovation can go a long way. The rejuvenation of the forest canopy did not require much expense except for the manpower and transport of the orange peels. All it took was waste fruit for a chance to revive a piece of the planet.