No Banana wasted
Bananas are the fourth most important food crop in the world, after rice, wheat, and maize. They are essential food for millions of people all over the world. Taking this into account, Chiquita’s goal is to achieve a situation where no fruit is thrown away by 2020. This is a part of our sustainability commitments.
At Chiquita, we are proud of our high export product standards. However, this means that some bananas do not meet the cut. Naturally, 5% to 20% of bananas do not meet our Chiquita quality standards each year. There are several reasons for which a banana will not meet the standards, but this doesn’t mean they don’t serve a good purpose.
When bananas do not meet the export standard
Often, bananas don’t meet the quality standard because they don’t look good. Small differences in the appearance mean that the banana will not be exported for store display. After all, we eat with our eyes! These bananas are nonetheless perfectly good to eat and packed with nutrients, so they are turned into purée.
Chiquita owns a purée plant in Costa Rica, where an average of 65,000 tons of bananas a year from Panama and Costa Rica are processed into delicious, wholesome banana purée. If they don’t become banana purée, they become banana flour. In 2016, Chiquita sold 16,000 tons of non-exportable bananas to the company Inversiones y productos agroindustriales (Inprosa).
Some bananas will be bruised. What happens to them? In order not to waste them, they are put to good use, too. These bananas are given to farmers who use them to feed their animals.
What about the rest of the plant?
The inedible parts of the plant do not get thrown away either! They actually have a fantastic and very practical use. We use the banana leaves, trucks and stems to protect the soil from erosion, and conserve moisture. In addition, this organic matter stops weed growth. It is the perfect biological and natural fertilizer.
The composting trenches on the farms are also a favorite feeding place for birds, deer, insects, and frogs.
Chiquita bananas are a great energy source, not only for our bodies. Chiquita’s latest innovation, the biodigester system, is proof of this. The biodigester makes it possible to harness energy from discarded fruit materials that previously could not be captured. It is located at the Chiquita Tropical Ingredients facility in Costa Rica. This becomes a sustainable energy source for the facility and filters processing water. This benefits the company, the communities around the farms and the whole planet.
The biodigester, designed and built in Costa Rica, operates solely with gravity and natural bacterial processes. Zero fuel. Zero electricity. The wastewater that was formerly pumped into treatment lagoons, is now passed through the biodigester via underground piping. It is passed through a series of strainers and stainless-steel filters to separate the solids from the wastewater. The solids are captured in holding ponds and eventually, used as organic fertilizer for local farmers. The filtered wastewater enters the biodigester’s six interconnected chambers where anaerobic microorganisms convert the biomass into biogas. The biogas, which consists of methane and carbon dioxide, accumulates and is stored in large rubber bags.
The Biodigester’s valuable services
- The system yields 500-600 cubic meters of biogas per day, enough to replace the liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and electricity previously consumed in the cafeteria’s kitchen and administrative offices.
- By reducing the organic load entering the lagoons, it ensures that wastewater leaving the facility meets effluent limits established by Costa Rican authorities.
- Odors associated with treatment lagoons are significantly reduced because the biodigester is an enclosed system, preventing odors from reaching the atmosphere.
- The residue of the biodigester is rich in plant nutrients. Chiquita will educate local farmers on the use of this residue to fertilize their crops.
What you can do at home
Here at Chiquita, we’re doing our very best to make sure no bananas go to waste, but this goal mustn’t stop here. We encourage our consumers to get involved, too. Remember, there are so many delicious recipes to make use of ripe bananas. Try using your ripe Chiquita bananas in a smoothie or banana bread. Bananas can even be saved for another day by chopping and freezing them−frozen bananas are perfect for making banana ice-cream.
This sustainability goal has been given to consumers, employees and the people in the countries where we own farms. Support our sustainability goal by ensuring that no fruit goes to waste!