Michiel Vos: Why All Pallets Should be Made from Coconuts – Ep. 144

About This Episode:

Michiel Vos is the Founder & CTO of CocoPallet, a Dutch start-up that makes circular, affordable transportation pallets from coconut husks only.

They’re helping to save an estimated 200 million trees from being chopped down needlessly, and their solution is not only more affordable but is itself biodegradable and re-sellable as a potting soil enhancer.

It’s an ingenious solution that uses the waste from the coconut industry—material that would otherwise just be dumped or burned, and it’s exactly the kind of solution we need going forward. 

They’ve won the Heineken Award as well as the Accenture Innovation Award for their work, and it’s the start of an exciting new circular frontier for a massive industry.

Full Audio:

  • https://www.cocopallet.com

If you enjoy the show, please rate it 5 stars on Apple Podcasts, subscribe, and leave a nice review!


There's a lot more you're missing.

Submit your email address to gain instant access to the rest of this page, including episode highlights with timestamps & original research.


14:44 – [On what propelled him forward] “Talking with customers and you see 70–75% of the startups fail in second year and 45–50% of all these people interviewed say, ‘Yeah, there was no markets for the product that we made. We were so in love with our products and we thought it was great, but we forgot to ask the markets.’ And that’s the first thing we did. What are you using? What are you paying? What should go on it? What’s wrong with it? What would you like to improve? So we had hundreds of interviews with big companies, like with Amazon and DHL and stuff. So everybody said, ‘Oh, yeah, we want that.’ And even more so because of wood shortages right now. Wood prices have tripled in the States, for example, in some places. And that’s the thing, because we knew that our process was very optimized and we could compete with wood. So sustainability, making it affordable is, it grows if the problem is big enough and the problem is massive so – everybody wants to save a few bucks on the pallet. And if they can also lower their carbon footprint, it’s plus plus.”

16:41 – “So the coconut falls down. The farmer takes the nut out and sells it to a factory. This [the coconut shell] stays behind. And so we buy that from the farms, we pay them a fair price for it, we bring it to the factory and we mill it – small bits like sawdust. Then we have to dry it, because if it’s too wet, it works against us. Then we transport it to our molds and they’re like big steel molds that are heated and then we put the material in it. That’s a very special trick. And then it’s like baking cookies. But we put a lot of pressure. Some presses are like 3000-ton pressure, that’s like three million kilos. And then after a few minutes, the pallet comes out. And then because of the pressure, the natural glue cross-links, and then if it cools down, it’s solid. This is just pressed husk and the heat and the pressure did the trick. But it also makes it completely bio-based. So at the end of the line, when it’s at the end of it’s life, you can just use it as pot soil.”

22:21 – [Explaining circular economy] “Basically, everything was circular up to two/three hundred years ago because there’s no waste. So your packaging, for example, if you buy a nice nasi-lemak, in Malaysia, the packaging is a banana leaf. Even if you just throw it in the street, no harm. If it’s plastic, it will take hundreds of years to decompose. Aluminum foil and stuff. So in the circular economy, everything goes back to the natural cycle. Our product definitely, if we put nails in, that would be different. If we put some synthetic resin on it – what everybody told us would make life a lot easier – it’s not circular anymore. And so we didn’t take the easy path – putting like some extra glue in it – but fine-tuned the process until we had something that was strong enough and fully bio-based. And it was not the easy path, but the right path for us.”

26:42 – “A lot of people have seen these things traditionally, as: you’re either going to be successful in business or you are going to do something good for the planet. But they don’t connect. And I’m trying to show people that, yes, you can also be profitable, but also do something that’s good for the planet. They’re not mutually exclusive.”

28:16 – (Ross): “You’re talking about very unsexy things. You’re talking about palettes, you’re talking about floor tiles, building materials. In the future, none of that is going to matter because in the future, all of the younger generation see, everybody’s going to only earn their money from doing dances on TikTok. So 15-second dances will be the backbone of our economy. Nobody’s going to build anything anymore. We don’t need to live in houses. We don’t need food to eat, we don’t need water. So I think all of these ideas are very old fashioned, don’t you agree?”
(Michiel): Yeah but that’s like, I think, King Midas – everything he touched became gold. And then he died because he couldn’t eat anything because everything turned gold. So if everything is utterly useless, like TikTok things, they’re going to starve.”

37:26 – (Michiel): “True leaders create leaders. And bad leaders create followers. And with followers, if the leader goes down, it’s chaos. I think that as a leader, you always have to look like, is this person or this team capable of continuing this better or just without me or do they have that mindset of learning and growing? And you have to look for leaders, but also give people the opportunity to grow as a leader. The world needs more leadership. If you look at our governments and think like, ‘Oh God, where are we going to?’”
(Ross): “No kidding.”
(Michiel): “And so we have to also make it attractive. But being a leader is often not very attractive.”

40:50 – “If you have people in your life, you think ‘They’re so negative,’ and they’re only coming to take and not bring – part from those people. Don’t make a place for people who are always negative – always be ready to help people. Even those people that you parted with if they’re in trouble. But if it’s only costing you energy, then you might ask yourself – the same with people you hire. If you think, ‘This is like an energy drain for the team, for me. Just tell that person, ‘Hey, I don’t think this is the right place for you. Let’s find another place for you.’ And when you know, you know and you have to move directly and not wait because it’s toxic. You have to be – they call it social hygiene. You have to really be picky who you hang out with and in every part of life. That’s what I’ve learned.”

45:05 – “I think we live in a weird time where negativity, we know that negativity spreads better on tools like social media. The Internet is better at amplifying. And I’ve certainly noticed that, a lot of my most popular videos on TikTok, which ever since I started being more positive, my reach went down astronomically. When I was just complaining about stuff, before I started actually trying to solve it, that was way more popular because people like hearing people just complain about things. They like hearing people just vent. But it’s not as popular to say, ‘Okay, how do we solve that? What’s the next step? Okay, yes, this is bad, but who’s actually fixing that?’”

45:42 – “I’ve always felt that there’s three levels to things. That’s kind of a framework that I have in my mind just in general to being a foreigner in another country. Just everything in general has three levels. The first is just ignorance. And you might say ignorance is bliss, but then the second level you learn a lot and that can bring a lot of depression and cynicism because there are enormous problems that are facing us as a species. Astronomical problems. We know that. But the third step is, ‘Okay, what do I want to be in this world? Do I want to be somebody who helped to try to solve the problems of this world? Or do I want to just stay at level two and just say, ‘Everything sucks, everything’s terrible, we’re doomed. There’s no possible way out.’
(Michiel): “That’s the easiest. And not very rewarding. But also, you know, what do you eat? What do you take in? Like it’s just crap? I don’t have basic social media because maybe it will depress me or it will take too much of my time. It’s a choice. No Facebook and no Instagram and stuff and do I miss something? Yeah, sure, I miss things, but I don’t care. And so being negative is much easier than being positive.”

54:14 – “Maybe I should, maybe not do it myself, but maybe find a purpose that’s worth my time. And so you join a course because everybody can be part of this, let’s say, revolution for the good. And your talent – everybody has talents – develop it and put it there where it’s needed most. And only some of them will be successful entrepreneurs. Let’s say like 95% of the startups fail. And so that’s why when you are in startup bootcamp stuff, you always just look around – 95% will fail. Who are the people I’d like to hire when they fail? Who are the people? But also think like, ‘Hey, if my company fails, where would I put my talents? Where would I like to work?’ So this is a different way of looking at things when you’re in such an incubator or something like.”

5 1 vote
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
Scroll to Top