In southern India, a paper making unit is revolutionizing the papermaking process saving 50 000 trees. A number that is still in the counting.
Every year an estimated 15 billion trees are cut to make paper. A chemical-intensive process that creates a product that is often used for only a short period of time. At the same time, huge amounts of waste are created in the agriculture and textile industry which are valuable fibres that are much easier to use for papermaking than the hard timber. Yet, these valuable fibres mostly either get burnt (causing air pollution) or dumped (degrading back to carbon and soil). Trees have an important role in both creating oxygen through photosynthesis and storing carbon in the soil. Utilizing these for products is not always unsustainable, however, for paper making, using waste fibres is a superior option that can help us save trees, and reduce air pollution.
Making 100% tree-free paper using agricultural and cotton textile waste not only prevents trees from being cut but also reduces both crop burning and landfilling of the upcycled materials used to make the paper. The paper is made using only natural ingredients and is 100% bio-degradable/compostable and comes with various unique looks, textures and qualities for many uses from writing, gift wrapping, to creating bags, tags, gifts and wine bags, paper sheets and boxes depending on the waste material used.
Through direct contact with farmers and textile tailors, various raw material fibres such as banana leaves, coffee husk, mulberry bark, coconut husk, lemongrass and cotton scraps, are collected and brought to the facility. These are all different forms of residual waste. The coffee husk is a residual waste from coffee beans often discarded by farmers in the coffee-growing district of Karnataka. The cotton comes from scraps of the textile tailoring industry in the nearby areas. And lemongrass straws are a by-product after extracting the lemongrass oil.
Ordinary paper made from trees contains low levels of cellulose, creating the automatic need to add chemicals. But tree-free paper is made through high-cellulose, residual-waste fibres, giving the same paper but without adding chemicals that are harmful to the environment.
100% tree-free paper | 100% upcycled agricultural waste and cotton waste fibres | Smooth finish and easy to write on | Sturdy | Durable | Reusable | Recyclable | Compostable
After the fibres arrive at the facility in the central part of southern India, a lengthy process of sorting, cleaning and drying begins. This is often the most demanding part of the process, but an essential one to create quality papers.
The next step is to cut the fibres into almost a dust-like material before it is mixed with water to create the pulp. Papermaking is a water-dependent activity. That's why the producer has gone the extra mile to ensure effective water recycling. There is an in-house water recycling facility on the grounds. Since no harsh chemicals are used in the process, the water can be filtered and recycled several times.
Once the pulping process is done, paper is formed in sheets through the paper-making machinery. After this, the paper sheets are dried before they can be used to create products.
A lot of training has gone into the labour force to ensure a precise and efficient work environment. Usually, the training period lasts up to 5 months and most of the trainees are from the local population(women and men), who go from unskilled to semi-skilled status by training on the paper sheets formation process.
One of the workers, Shivraj has been handling the machines, print formatting and making paper by hand for almost 3 years now. He says he enjoys the process of the work and genuinely likes the work. Another worker, states "it is most appealing that we were not cutting trees to make our beautiful paper", importantly adding "Indeed paper manufacturers with the mismanagement of forestry have harmed planet earth enough."
The use of residual waste is not only beneficial to the environment as a substitute to the toxic air and soil pollutant process of normal paper-making but it also helps in creating a circular economy where raw materials are reused and even the water is recycled.
UN Sustainable Development Goal
By using residual waste like coffee husk, cotton bits and recycling water, this project has contributed to target 12.5; "reduce waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse"
Co2 mitigated: CO2 emissions are mitigated by utilizing waste that would otherwise be burnt or landfilled, and by reducing deforestation.
#ZeroWaste #Upcycled #WasteToResource #Co2Mitigation #HighlyDurable
By employing locally, both men and women, and providing training to the workers, it empowers the workers to improve their skills as well as increases economic growth by creating fair jobs. In addition, local farmers are profiting by selling off their residual wastes such as coffee husk from coffee beans, which would otherwise be discarded.
UN Sustainable Development Goal
By employing the local population and creating a second income for farmers, this project has contributed to target 8.3; "Promote development-oriented policies that support productive activities, decent job creation and encourage growth of micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises"
Livelihoods impacted: 22 people from the local area and empowerment of independent farmers.