Paper designed from dead leaves (and it’s happening in Ukraine)
The Ukrainian company Releaf Paper has devised a process to transform dead leaves collected in parks and public gardens into paper.
Despite the war in Ukraine, Releaf Paper stays the course. This young company, founded in 2021 in kyiv, produced more than 100 tons of paper per month in 2022. Paper that is not made from tree trunks, as is generally the case, but from of… fallen leaves. The idea arose in the mind of Valentin Frechka, one of the two co-founders of Releaf Paper. At the age of 16, he decided to fight against deforestation. He then studied alternative sources to the production of cellulose. This lover of the Carpathian forests, not far from which he lives, first thinks of grass or straw to replace the felling of wood.
Then he realizes that, rather than cutting down trees, using the fallen leaves on the ground could perhaps be used to make paper. It was still necessary to confirm that these contain enough fiber. If the first attempts were a failure, 2018 will mark a turning point in his quest. Tests in the laboratory of his school, the Taras Shevchenko University of kyiv, will confirm that his hypothesis is viable. A year later, he and his business partner, Alexander Sobolenko, raise around 18,000 euros. And launch the industrial production of a first test batch of paper made from dead leaves. It is a success.
Paper with a 78% reduction in CO2 emissions
Without chemical treatment and without the need to cut trees, this paper has a very small carbon footprint. Releaf Paper estimates that this cuts CO2 emissions by 78% compared to traditional manufacturing. The company has decided to focus initially on the manufacture of bags but aims to decline different forms of paper. An innovation that pleases: major brands such as L’Oréal, Schneider Electric, Samsung, Weleda and Ariston Thermo are customers.
What’s more, Releaf Paper does not seek out dead leaves in forests, which could unbalance biodiversity. It focuses on “biological waste” from cities. That is to say the leaves of trees in urban areas (sidewalks, parks and public gardens). Rather than burning them, as is usually the case, they are transformed. Their pulp turns out to be a very good substitute for wood cellulose. Partner of WWF and Canopy Planet, an NGO dedicated to the protection of forests, the Ukrainian company therefore participates in avoiding the felling of trees.
A fairly simple manufacturing process for transforming dead leaves
“We strip the leaves of any solid compound, dry them and grit them. This allows us to store raw materials all year round and ensures the stability of the production cycle,” explains Releaf Paper.
The pellets are then transformed into a special fiber which forms the basis for the creation of the paper. Mixed with clean fiber, the dough thus obtained is then pressed and rolled using a machine. A paper comes out that will be perfect for creating bags. This paper can then be recycled like any conventional paper.
“As a bonus, leaf paper degrades in just 30 days while plain paper can take up to 270 days,” says Releaf Paper.
In addition, the manufacturing process of this paper based on dead leaves does not require the use of dangerous chemicals such as sulfur and chlorine. This is often the case in a process based on wood cellulose. So many advantages that make this solution a particularly attractive alternative.