When Valentyn Frechka was 19 and still a student in rural Ukraine, he started working on a science project to turn dead plant leaves into biodegradable paper and cardboard bags. Three years later, the project has come a long way, and he has launched an initiative called “Re-leaf Paper”, producing bags and paper packaging from fibers extracted from dead leaves.
He has since partnered with a local cardboard manufacturing company and founded a small business based in Zhytomyr, Ukraine (140 km (87 miles) west of the capital Kiev), aiming to reduce environmental impact of paper production. During his time with the paperboard company (before partnering with it to launch Re-leaf Paper), he learned about the paper industry.
Frechka told Reuters:
The idea is simple. Items considered waste can be reused or recycled. Leaves are litter that should be removed from parks as they emit a lot of carbon as they rot. This is an opportunity for a customer to use environmentally friendly packaging.
Frechka believes her initiative could end the deforestation caused by the manufacture of plain paper. He also points out that the waste from his products could be recycled and reused for various purposes.
Re-leaf Paper’s first batch of strong paper was produced solely from leaves collected from huge parks in Kyiv and urban communities – two places where the leaves were wasted because they weren’t even used as compost for the ground.
This batch was completed in October 2020, and now Frechka plans to move into commercial production. It is open to all proposals from companies around the world – to anyone wishing to join this new ecological papermaking methodology.
Last year, Ukrainian magazine Forbes included Frechka in its list of top 30 Ukrainians under 30.