In early 2013, while searching for new business ideas I came across palm paper for the first time and discovered not only was it being made right here in my own backyard of Malaysia, but it also had been developed here more than two decades earlier. What intrigued me most about the paper was the fact that it was made from the waste generated during the palm oil extraction process and that the actual fibers came not from the trunk of a tree, but the empty fruit bunches (EFB) of the oil palm - truly a tree-free paper.
It became immediately apparent (at least to me anyway :-) that this very eco-friendly paper had real benefits to our planet and thus I decided that there must be something I could do in some small way to help spread its use. As my background was in design and advertising, I came up with the idea that perhaps a line of notebook and journals may be a way to put the paper to use on the covers, as well as some art printed on note cards and prints.
A UK friend based in the US suggested I try the US crowdfunding site Kickstarter (KS) as a way to gauge the "crowd's" potential interest in my idea. After making a number of prototypes out of the paper I crafted a "project page" and launched my very first Kickstarter called "Palm Republik: From Palm Waste to Paper", in June 2013, with a goal to raise $8,500 US during the 35 day campaign.
After a very exciting and stressful campaign full of ups and downs and a huge amount of learning "on the job" crammed into a very short time frame, the project surpassed its goal and ended up with $10,150 (less KS fees of course) from 152 backers based in 20 countries. Not too bad, as I became the first Malaysia to successfully raise over $10k on KS and received a fair amount of home grown publicity.
In mid 2014, I set up a website and began to market the first run of products which remained after fulfilling my Kickstarter rewards. After some very good initial feedback and responses from a number of local retailers, I decided that I needed to scale the business and produce more product. Unfortunately, when I went to purchase more of the palm paper I was shocked to discover that the supply had virtually vanished as the last two manufacturers making the paper had stopped making it due to limited demand. I had some paper remaining, but this was not anywhere near enough to sustain me for much longer so I looked to pivot the business and tiga was born.
However, when setting up the tiga web site, I decided to list my Palm Republik products in view that they were of high quality and there still would be some demand for them. The quantities left are not huge and will eventually be sold down until none remain. Thus, please give some consideration for these products and the very important environmental statement that this paper gives.
HOW PALM PAPER IS MADE
Palm paper is a by-product made from the waste generated during the production of palm oil. For every tonne of palm oil produced approximately 5 tonnes of agricultural waste, know as biomass, is also generated which for Malaysia this equates to over 80 million tonnes a year. Over the past two decades, a concerted effort by both government and industry has been placed on converting much of this waste into a host of downstream products such as pulp and paper that can be used in everyday consumer products.
To create palm paper the process is relatively simple and begins with the harvesting of the Fresh Fruit Bunches (FFB) which is where the extracted crude palm oil (CPO) comes from. The leftover waste - called an Empty Fruit Bunch (EFB) - is then shredded before being trucked to a pulp mill where it is then mixed with water and meshed into a slurry pulp - no chemical additives or bleaching agents are used. The pulp is then placed through a large paper making machine which produces a range of paper widths (weights) to be used in industrial packaging. To date, the pulp has not been turned into writing or office paper, but with further research this is expected to be achieved in the coming few years.
The picture on the left is dried fiber from the empty fruit bunches which is then used to make pulp and finally paper as seen in the picture on the right. The paper has a beautiful, natural and exotic texture that is accentuated with visible fibers and slight imperfections making palm paper a most unique and one-of-a kind product.
There are a number of significant advantages to using palm paper including:
- No tree fiber is used
- The fiber from the EFB is very sustainable
- Using palm paper saves trees
- No chemical or bleaching agents are used
- Aesthetically pleasing "natural" look
- Large amount of waste available
- 100% recyclable, biodegradable and compostable