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How a Tasty Turkish Treat Can Help Heat the Country's First Eco-City

Image credit: John Lee

Ever thought twice about those pistachio shells that we so readily discard? Luckily Turkey, one of the world's largest producers of pistachios, has and the country is planning to use the shells, currently waste from production of its beloved baklava, to create biogas to generate heat for its first eco-city.

The planned city will be built in Gaziantep province (known informally as Antep) in southern Turkey, which happens to be the center of pistachio production, growing more than half of the country's 'green gold.' The new city will cover 3,200 hectares (7,900 acres), and house roughly 200,000 people.

"Gaziantep's potential in pistachio production is known, as well as its considerable amount of pistachio shells waste," said Seda Muftuoglu Gülec, a green building expert for the municipality. "We are planning to obtain biogas, a kind of renewable energy, from burning pistachio shells," Gulec told AFP.

The idea originated when Burgeap, a French environmental engineering company, pointed out that Antep pistachio shells are the most efficient source of alternative energy in the region. According to Burgeap, the shells could satisfy up to 60 percent of the city’s heating needs.

"We thought the ecological city could be heated by burning pistachio shells because, when you plan such environment-friendly systems, you take a look at natural resources you have," said Gülec. "If the region was abundant in wind power, we would utilise wind energy."

The pistachio shells need to be fermented and the resulting gases (mostly methane) can be used to generate heat. And there are plenty of shells available in the region: Turkey exported 6,800 tons of pistachios last year, with Gaziantep alone exporting 4,000 tons. The country is the third-largest producer of the nuts, behind Iran and the US.

Once approved by local authorities, a pilot project for the new city will run in a small 55-hectare area, before rolling out across the entire city if successful. Gülec said once municipal officials and private landowners are convinced, construction of the new city should start within the next two years and take roughly two decades to complete

Here in the States, New York City announced a pilot program early this year that will convert thousands of pounds of its food waste into biogas, which will heat up to 5,200 homes throughout the city and help curb roughly 90,000 metric tons of the state’s annual greenhouse gas emissions. New York State is also offering dairy farmers assistance to convert farm waste to energy. Most of the $20 million funding will go toward installing anaerobic digesters that produce electricity and heat from organic wastes, though none so palatable as pistachio shells.

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Aarthi is an Editorial Assistant at Sustainable Brands. She has nearly a decade of experience in creating and managing content across diverse media (web, video and print) for nonprofits and media houses in the US and India. Aarthi holds a… [Read more about Aarthi Rayapura]