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Innovative solution for cotton waste management - sustainable charcoal production
01 October 2012

Turning potentially environmentally harmful practice into something useful and profitable is what Cangzhou Yuji Zhenhuafa (CYZ) Charcoal Company Limited has been working with cotton farmers in Hebei Province in China. They transformed the appalling practice of burning cotton tree and branches on the field to something the cotton farmers can earn extra bucks – sustainable charcoal making from cotton branches.

 Farmers gathering cotton branches.      Photo: CYZ

In China, after cotton harvest, the only way to dispose of the cotton trees is through burning on cotton fields. The burning emits huge clouds of dark smoke into the atmosphere. CYZ found an alternative to this practice – make charcoal briquette from these branches and stop the hazardous practice. Charcoal making does two important things: reduce smoke emission and give extra income to cotton farmers.

Cotton wood and branches are alternative raw materials for making charcoal briquette, thus eliminating the need to harvest materials from the forest.

Charcoal making involves emitting smoke into the atmosphere. It is still environmentally hazardous. Why is it sustainable?  Yes, making charcoal can be environmentally harmful, but with technology smoke emission can be lessened. CYZ uses simple innovative technology to reduce smoke emission in charcoal production.

Here’s how: large kilns are being used for the carbonization, the process of turning the branches into charcoal. Through the kilns, they can control the burning process thus reducing the amount of smoke released into the atmosphere. Compared to open burning on cotton fields, there is great reduction of smoke emission.

CYZ also uses baghouses to collect dust and prevent dust from polluting the air. They use high-efficiency cyclone dust collectors to prevent charcoal dust from contamination the immediate environment.
In keeping their promise to meet environmental standards, CYZ charcoals bear the South California Air Quality Management District’s (SCAQMD) approval. They are also certified by Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Clients of CYZ in the US and Europe have also conducted their independent ethical assessments. For more information on their environmental practices, visit website

Fair Trade
The production process involves gathering of the cotton branches. This is how cotton farmers earn their extra bucks during off season. CYZ pays fair prices to cotton farmers for gathering the branches. 

To extend the positive impacts of its efforts even further, the CYZ has partnered with local farmers in setting up co-operatives. The company assisted the farmers by investing start-up capital fund for the cooperatives.
The co-operatives have allowed the farmers to take control of the charcoal production process. This provides more protection and guaranteed earnings to the farmers than just selling the cotton branches directly to the charcoal company. It helps the farmers to earn extra income. 

It has been estimated by the Cangzhou Yuji Zhenhuafa Charcoal Company that 12,000,000 virgin trees are saved annually due to this method of production, and 150 people are employeed annually as well.

The next time you plan a BBQ, give it a Fair Trade touch!

By Jessie Chow, CYZ
Lindsey Hethcote, Intern

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