Currently we consume 400 million tonnes of paper yearly. We also keep using chipboard that emits hazardous components. What if there was a solution to both of those problems?
Australian company Papyrus Australia has just won a Cleantech award and, man, they deserve it. Over the last two decades they’ve bee busying themselves with developing a unique technology that allows processing banana plant fibres into a wide sort of valuable stuff. Banana tree trunk is a pseudo stem that re-grows twice a year without requiring any extra effort. Now, when you grow bananas, you just reap the harvest and leave the stems to rot! It is possible to derive a great fibrous material from the “waste” trunks.
Papyrus Australia states on their website that their intention is NOT to belittle the efforts of the conventional paper making industry. Fair enough, there’s nothing wrong with a polite approach. Yet it is not my intention so I will go and say everything I want about the current paper making industry. It:
The new Australian technology doesn’t consume water (actually it produces water as a by-product), it uses few chemicals and it doesn’t interfere with forestation. Look at it this way: there are banana plantations, like it or not, they produce millions of tonnes of waste stems continuously – that waste can be turned into paper and green building material. Great!
Banana fibres can be used to produce: office paper, cardboard (both structural and functional), decorative veneer, structural veneer, laminates for green building industry and furniture. Some products can be made water resistant and flame retardant.
The idea of using fibre to produce paper is more than 5,000 years old. Ancient Egyptians learned to make papyrus using fibre from Papyrus Cyperus plant around year 3700 BCE. Today many of the fancy Egyptian souvenirs are made from banana fibres not from Cyperus.
If common sense wins over lobbying and bureaucracy, this might be just what we need to save the forest!