Pinoy Tannin: Development of sustainable tannin extraction strategy in the Philippines

The goal of the Pinoy Tannin project was to develop the scientific, technological, social, and economic bases to set up a sustainable and environmentally friendly tannin extraction value chain in the Philippines, and to contribute to the creation of new revenue possibilities local communities. The project ran for four years and finished in 2022.

Factsheet

  • Lead school(s) School of Architecture, Wood and Civil Engineering
  • Institute Institute for Materials and Wood Technology
    HAFL Institut Hugo P. Cecchini
  • Research unit Material Emissions
  • Funding organisation r4d – Swiss Programme for Research on Global Issues for Development
  • Duration (planned) 01.06.2018 - 31.05.2022
  • Project management Dr. Frédéric Pichelin
  • Head of project Dr. Sauro Bianchi
  • Project staff Dr. Mélanie Feurer
    Prof. Dr. Jürgen Blaser
    Prof. Dr. Deane Harder
  • Partner Juboken Enterprise Inc.
    Non-Timber Forest Product – Exchange Programme
    Bern University of Applied Sciences (3 Departments)
    Visayas State University, College of Agriculture and Food Science
    Philippine Coconut Authority, Non-Food Products Development Division
    Forest Products Research and Development Institute

Initial situation

In the Philippines, about 25 million people live in the uplands, mostly depending on the forest for their livelihood and customary lifestyles. Their incomes from conventional timber and crops trading are however limited. Many families in these communities live below the poverty line and are vulnerable to frequent extreme weather events and economic shocks.

With the groups heavily involved in the forest and agriculture value chains, large amounts of by-products, such as coconut shells and tree bark, go to waste. The exploitation of these by-products is a key factor to improve the quality of life in the rural Philippines.

The Pinoy Tannin project is a low-tech approach for developing a sustainable exploitation of these underused agroforestry by-products, turning them into valuable sources for local tannin production. It promotes an auspicious strategy to improve the livelihoods in the rural Philippines. Together, it encourages the conservation and restoration of Philippine forests, and promotes the decoupling of economic growth from the environmental degradation, crucial for developing countries.

The project targets the several goals of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development:

  • 12.2: sustainable management and efficient use of natural resources
  • 15.2: promote the sustainable management of all type of forest and substantially increase afforestation and reforestation
  • 8.3: promote development-oriented policies that encourage the formalization of micro‑, small- and medium-sized enterprises.

Procedure

Tannins are natural compounds widely present in most of the plant tissues and can be extracted with hot water. Because of their chemical properties, they are suitable “green” substitutes for oil-based chemicals in many industrial sectors, such as leather tanning, wood or cardboard adhesives and preservatives, animal feeding, anticorrosive coatings, and wastewater treatments, etc.

Currently, all the tannins used in the Philippines (about 1000 tonnes/year) are imported from South Africa or Brazil, countries which have a long tradition in tannin production and are leaders in the tannin market worldwide.

While numerous studies have been conducted at the academic level, very few efforts have been documented for the implementation of a tannin extraction value chain in Southeast Asia. Wood species also farmed in the Philippines have already been recognised as rich in tannins. The actual accessibility, availability, and competitiveness of such sources, however, had to be validated, along with the technical and economic feasibility of a local extraction process.

The project was thus planned into five main focuses:

  • Identification of suitable tannin sources in the Philippines
  • Development of a cost-efficient extraction process and set up of a pilot extraction plant
  • Testing of the efficacy of tannins in wood adhesive and wood preservatives formulations
  • Assessment of the biomass availability and accessibility and set up of a pilot plantation
  • Analysis of the tannin value chain and definition of a market entry strategy

Results

Six promising sources of tannins were identified from more than 30 different residual products from the Philippine agroforestry: coconut shells and the bark of locally farmed tree species.

The BFH team together with local partners (Forest Product Resource and Development Institute, Philippine Coconut Authority, Visayas State University) established a pilot low-end extraction plant for the hot water extraction of tannins.

The tannins extracted in the pilot plant have already proven their effectiveness in wood adhesive formulations. Laboratory-scale plywood samples were successfully produced and passed most of the international standards for exterior use applications.

A key component of the project was considering different facets along the tannin value chain, not only limited to the extraction and use of tannin, but also including the farming of tannin sources to the final market of the extracts. Germination trials and growth monitoring tests of tannin-rich tree species were set in a 1.75 ha-wide pilot field in the Visayas region.

A collaboration with local tannin users was established to better match the in-development tannin production with their needs. The tannin production costs at the pilot scale were calculated and an extrapolation to the industrial scale was estimated. On this basis, a market entry strategy for the local tannins was proposed.

Furthermore, workshops were held with local representatives of the Department of Agriculture, the Forest Development Authority, the Department of Trade and Industry, and South-Asian investors, backed by the strong endorsement of the Swiss Embassy in Manila.

Outlook

In the future, the project teams plans to cooperate with a local adhesive manufacturer (RI-Chem Inc.) to further optimise the production of tannins. The use of local tannins in further applications other than wood adhesive is going to be explored too.

In the long-term, the project outcomes are envisaged to contribute to the sustainable land use and afforestation, and the creation of new job opportunities, among local rural communities.