- How was it?
The RE-leaf PAPER project in the early stages was just a school idea of a rural school student who wanted to show his abilities in the field of science to the whole of Ukraine, and possibly the whole world.
As a member of the Junior Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, and having the opportunity to work in the school chemical laboratory, together with his teacher he created a project to obtain high-yield cellulose from fallen leaves as a material for paper production. The idea arose as a result of a coincidence when, surrounded by the Carpathian forests and constantly looking for ways to prevent their felling, he came to the conclusion that fallen leaves as part of a tree can serve as a source of pulp for paper production. A series of experiments, attempts and failures to obtain cellulose that was suitable for paper formation gave results. Already in the fall of 2017, after 4 months of work, the first prototypes of paper were presented, on which you could write, draw, print and which had a good physical and mechanical performance.
- The first successes thanks to the idea.
As a 10th grade student at the time, Valentin had the opportunity to present a research project at several environmental competitions at the national and international levels. Thus, within two years the project was presented and won the following events:
1) All-Ukrainian Olympiad in Ecology -1 place.
2) All-Ukrainian Scientific and technical competition Intel Eco Ukraine - 1st place.
3) International Olympiad of Scientific Developments I_FEST (Tunisia) - 1st place.
4) International Olympiad in Ecology The Golden Climate Olympiad (Republic of Kenya) -1st place and Grand Prix.
5) International competition ICYS Belgrade (Serbia) - 2nd place.
6) International Olympiad of Geniuses Genius Olympiad (USA) - 1st place.
7) International Milset Expo Science Asia 2018 (South Korea) - 1st place.
After significant victories, Ukrainian and foreign media will talk about the project. Valentin received a number of requests to develop the idea from a simple study into a business project, the implementation of which would make it possible to produce a paper on a commercial basis.
Thus, several acceleration programs were involved at the national and international levels, which significantly influenced the position of the project and gave a vision of how to transform the idea into a commercial project.
- From idea to industrial production.
In September 2018, the project moved from the laboratory to an industrial enterprise, which acted as a platform for testing technology on industrial equipment. So, industrial chemical reactors came to replace test tubes. It took almost a year and a half for the technology to take the form it is today. Three pilot-industrial tests were performed to obtain fibrous mass from fallen leaves and two to convert the mass into paper from 100% leaf mass and in composition with biological fillers to increase puncture resistance. In September 2019, the final formula for obtaining the mass and production of paper for implementation on an industrial scale was outlined. In addition to the production of paper, packaging was made and tested according to the type of cast packaging (egg packaging), which gave an additional vision of the project development.
In May 2019, a patent was obtained for the technology of recycling leaves with the subsequent production of paper.
In 2020, Valentin Frechka, in partnership with Andriy Vartsaba, founded the RE-Leaf PAPER Research and Production Enterprise Limited Liability Company.
What is happening with the project now?
In six months of a tight schedule, the project has been improved in many ways. New team members have been recruited, leaf use opportunities have been expanded, and external foreign partners have been involved to accompany RE-leaf PAPER and help attract investment to build an industrial plant with a processing capacity of 20,000 tons of fallen leaves per year.
Also, the company Research and Production Enterprise RE-Leaf PAPER was included in the list of members of the Enterprise Europe Network. This is a great achievement for the company because these are our first successful steps into big business.
Adding our company to this network has given us interesting and useful feedback and it means that our activities are interesting to others and they see potential in it, so we are moving in the right direction.
Cooperation with CANOPY has been started since July 2020. RE-leaf PAPER and CANOPY have signed a partnership declaration that helps the project advance technology on all continents and achieve sustainability in production, offering existing paper companies to abandon felling trees and replace traditional wood with a new alternative - fallen leaves.
Another breakthrough of RE-leaf PAPER was the development and implementation of the social component of the project, which aims to allow society to participate in the active preservation of forests from deforestation by planting trees while being able to monitor the condition of these trees and receive income from environmental activities.
To enhance the image of the project and trust, a supervisory board was created based on RE-leaf PAPER, headed by Gennady Polonsky, whose competence includes the involvement of world-famous people who care about the future of our planet.
Apple was founded by people from a simple American garage.
Nike has started in the trunk.
Disney was created in the basement of a private house.
There is something symbolic in this because the company RE-leaf PAPER began to emerge in an ordinary rural school laboratory.
At that time, no one could have guessed that in 3 years it will gain such momentum that the company RE-leaf PAPER will be founded, whose main activity at the moment is to bring the idea to a sustainable, large-scale, profitable paper production.
To be continued…
These photos show the whole way we went from a simple school idea to a growing company