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Palm Republik Story #2

Palm Republik was born out of a dream and vision that the palm tree can be the inspiration and catalyst for a product line based on paper that is made out of the waste generated during the production of palm oil.

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. After some investigation I came to learn that the paper was only commercialised to a very limited extent sometime in 2011 and produced in small quantities.

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", near the end of May 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.

However, now the real hard part was about to begin - fulfillment! After some initial difficulties and set-backs (I could write a book here), all rewards were delivered to backers by the end of March, 2014. The money raised was not a huge amount, but enough to complete the project and launch Palm Republik as a "real company" in 2014, as I left my advertising career to embark on a new one as a full time entrepreneur.

Over the past 12 months my now small team and I have not sat idle, with many custom jobs being completed for a number of corporate and government clients including the full production of a 62 page coffee table book. During this period I also took some time to begin to explore a new area of art for me which was line art drawing and subsequently launched a range of post cards and prints based on my drawings. We have also explored a number of new products which will hopefully come to fruition and be released in the coming months. Finally, this e-commerce site has been on the drawing board for some time, but only now have we had the time to go live with it and make it a reality!

My desire for Palm Republik is to stay true to its roots as a built "from the ground up" type of business with a focus on eco-friendly materials, design inspiration from Asia, and partnerships with other artists from Southeast Asia. My team and I have many plans and a lot of inspiration, and we will seek to explore new ideas with a goal to develop new and unique products which will have strong appeal to those who enjoy well-made items with a dash of personality thrown in.

Our collective efforts will be focused on continuing this journey that was started on an "unknown" (at least for many) foreign platform called Kickstarter. We aspire to build Palm Republik into an global brand that reflects our passion for the environment, beautiful design combined quality materials and workmanship, all delivered at reasonable prices, whilst providing exemplary service to our valued customers no matter where you may live on this great big beautiful world we share.

Thank you for your support, and we look forward to working very hard in order that we can continue to deliver you a steady stream of unique and quality products for your enjoyment.

 

PALM PAPER

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

Currently, palm paper is available in limited production quantities in a variety of weights.