During his school years, inventor Valentyn Frechka was a member of Ukraine’s Minor Academy of Sciences — a state institution for supporting gifted and talented students.
Then, as a rural school student in the village of Sokyrnytsia, located in Ukraine’s westernmost Zakarpattia Oblast, Valentyn crafted the technology for high-efficient extraction of cellulose from fallen leaves, which is much more environmentally friendly than cutting and processing trees. This initiative aims to solve the problem of deforestation, as one of its major causes is paper production, which extracts cellulose from timber.[boxright]
In 2017, Valentyn Frechka presented his research project at several environmental competitions, and in 2019 received a patent in Ukraine for his technology of processing leaves to produce paper.
The idea itself isn’t new; many experiments with using leaves for paper production have taken place worldwide, although the method isn’t often commercially viable. Valentyn was the first in Ukraine to develop his own method of recycling leaf litter into paper, and he believes that his idea can be successful.
“My paper is [made from] 50% waste paper and 50% fallen leaves,” he explained back in 2019. “I won eight different competitions, in particular, in Kenya, Tunisia, France as everyone likes this idea because you can turn litter into money.”
In 2020, Valentyn Frechka co-founded the RE-Leaf PAPER Research and Production Enterprise. The first experimental batches of his paper were produced at the Tsyuryupynsk Paper Company factory. Further production continued at Zhytomyr Cardboard Factory some 130 kilometers away from the capital city of Kyiv.
“The idea is very simple. Things which are believed to be waste can be re-used or recycled. Leaves are waste that needs to be removed from parks because they emit a lot of carbon as they rot,” Frechka told Reuters.
Valentyn Frechka’s initiatives received a lot of press in Ukraine, and on 21 May the company’s Facebook reported that its mailbox exceeded 66,000 emails, most of which were inquiries about the possibility of purchasing their leaf-based paper. At publication date, the company’s online store was out of stock.
In July 2020, RE-Leaf PAPER signed a partnership declaration with the Canopy initiative to save forests.
Forbes magazine in Ukraine put Valentyn Frechka in 2020 on its list of the 30 most successful Ukrainians under 30 years old.
This video Valentyn published last year shows highlights from the industrial production process of paper from fallen leaves:
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