Paper,growing medium & Boards from Banana Stem Waste
In this modern age, the consumption of paper and boards has increased tremendously. Conventionally, paper is manufactured from cellulosic materials like bamboo, hardwood, cotton rags, etc. The ever-increasing demand, especially of the advanced countries has resulted in continued denudation of forests causing severe environmental imbalances and thus climate change. In this context, cellulose technologists are searching for alternative raw materials
Agricultural residues of non-woody nature like cotton stalks, wheat straw, rice straw, sorghum stalks, hemp, jute, etc., are possible raw materials which could be used for paper and board making. However, all these require to be digested at high temperature and pressure, employing energy consumptive and costly processes. Thus the search for other raw materials and cost- effective processes continues.
One of the materials we found to be promising was banana stem waste, which is a very good source of cellulose. Banana production in Kenya is the high, and the area under its cultivation is majorly by small holder farmers, among all fruit crops grown in kenya. About 80% of residue is produced from this huge production, all of which goes waste due to non-availability of suitable technology for its commercial utilization. Taking into consideration the large availability of banana stem waste in the country ( kisii and meru regions), as an eco-technology group for sustainable development, we took up the challenge to produce of boards and thicker varieties of paper from this agro-waste.
A simple technology had been evolved, earlier by Japanese. We have further improved at to suit the Kenya environment. The technology for soft board has now been converted to hard board, which involves the following processes.
- Chopping: Banana stem waste, thrown away by farmers after harvesting of fruits, is procured as raw material. The stems are chopped into small pieces of 3-4” size by a woman worker, usually at a rate of about 100 kg material per day. This can be done either at the farm itself or at the production unit.
- Cold digestion: The material is soaked in 1-2% NaOH for appropriate period. The alkali loosens the ligno-cellulosic bonds, thereby softening the material.
- Washing: The softened material is transferred to net baskets and washed with water to remove the black liquor of sodium lignite and unused alkali.
- Beating: The washed material is then subjected to beating in a Hollander beater. Two actions take place here:(a) initial cutting of the material into small pieces, and (b) separation of fibre from the non-cellulosic material. This is followed by a wet beating. In this process, internal fibrillation of the fibres takes place. A period of three to four hours of beating is required for a getting good quality pulp. Depending upon the quality of boards to be produced, appropriate amount of fillers, loading material or chemicals are used during wet beating. For production of hard boards, suitable quantity of resins like urea formaldehyde and phenol formaldehyde are added in the beater itself while maintaining pH.
- Storage: After completion of beating process, the pulp is delivered to a storage tank located constructed close to the beater.
- Board-making: Pulp from storage tank is manually lifted in a bucket and deposited in specifically fabricated wooden moulds. They are of two sizes: 26”x39” and 26”x52”. Depending on the thickness required, appropriate quantity of pulp is poured in the mould and pressed to remove excess water, using either a screw press or hydraulic press. The maximum water content desirable at wet conditions is about 60%.
- Drying: The wet boards are then allowed to dry under direct sun on bamboo frames specially made for this purpose. About 90-95% moisture gets removed. There are soft boards.
- Hot Hydraulic Press Treatment: To produce hard boards, these soft boards are further pressed in a hot hydraulic press at optimized temperature and pressure. The time interval depends on the thickness required.
- Post-pressing: During the process of drying, the boards get deformed or warped. To make them flat, several boards are stacked together and pressed in a screw press for 2-3 hours.
- Trimming: The well-pressed boards are then cut into standard sizes of 24”x24”, 24”x36” and 24”x48” and stacked for marketing.
This is a Potential substitute for wood products like plywood and medium density boards. Various uses include:
- Acoustic panels: The noise retention coefficient of banana boards is far better than conventional boards. At present, acoustic panels available in the market costs higher than Boards made from banana stem.
- Partition walls and other utilities: The insulating properties of these boards are found to be very good. These boards may be used for partition walls, false ceilings and as insulating
- Packing material: Boxes made from these boards can be used for transport of fruits and other materials to the local markets or export hence reducing costs incurred by farmers.
- Files and cover paper: Thicker varieties of banana paper can be used for making files, covers and packing materials.
- Expansion joint pads: Asphalted banana boards can also be used as expansion joint
pads in the construction of bridges. These are much cheaper than conventional ones available in the market.
This will be used to make writing and printing materials, the heavy gauge papers is suitable for artistic work, paper bags, sanitary towels and book covers.
They are used as growing mediums in dry areas since they store a lot of water and thus suitable for farming.
It can also be used in urban and peri urban farming systems where soil is not available and water costs are higher.
Small holder farmers will be able to increase their returns from selling these products and create employment especially to the special groups in the society the youths and the women.
Given the large availability of banana waste and the environmental cost of conventional paper production, there is urgent need for addressing these issues in order to optimize this technology package.
Lagran group is an agricultural company.the department on research and sustainable programs has specialized personnel in technical and mechanical operation skills necessary in this project.
As the developers of this idea we will participate daily in the project to ensure that all tasks are accomplished and provide the necessary facilitation. Our achievement is to see our idea working and bring the impact.
Being in the agriculture sector selling products and services to farmers have confidence in us. Because it will help them increase incomes by using what is commonly regarded is waste. We discovered this idea, we have designed it, and we have tested by doing several visits to farmers which made us refine our idea to incorporate all the suggestions given by the farmers. Like they would prefer to use fibre extraction machines than hand extraction and finally we have tried a pilot project to see and demonstrate how our model will be when our idea will be during implementation.
We developed our idea out of need to: increase, the returns of smallholder farmers, secondly involve them and industry players-our potential clients in solving climate change and develop an idea with solution to social needs of the society in our case provides employment and empower the woman and girls by making them comfortable and happy with our sanitary towels. And this made us to know who the beneficiaries of our idea are and exactly what they need. During this entire test we made several samples which we used them during market research and analysis which we tested the use of this products before the potential customers during this visits to them, public demos of our products, in fact they were asking how soon will they have the products available.
we will need to train our staff to have a clear understanding on the process and the objectives of the business so that it is easy for all of us to work for a common goal. We will do this by doing capacity building . We also need to train woman and girls on how to prepare sanitary towels. We will do this by selecting them in groups and send our staff to go and train them. Kenya is big so we have segmented our market and our production region so that we are able to handle a specific region and able to supply some specific clients as we increase our production capacity and so clients supplies. our business involves production of banana fibre which will be used to make mats, baskets and ropes; we will also produce paper which will be used to make artistic papers, file covers, book covers, paper bags, sanitary towels and boxes. When paper and fibre are mixed we will make soft boards and acoustic panels used in construction sectors. This products will demand more bananas and alternatively wheat,rice and bearly straws saving trees, we have segmented our markets into three but we will start with what we are able to serve. Our channels : marketing channels where we will visit clients, promotion and demos in public, community outreach and social media. And on logistics channels we will deliver the products to clients, clients picking from our production unit and selling to retailers like bookshops and supermarkets. Our products are affordable and of unique quality since we use locally available materials so this will give us a competitive advantage on cost.
On partnerships we work with organization supporting woman and girls to support the production of sanitary towels, pitch to potential investors, we will also investment in our business. Our costs will go to machines, marketing, utilities and human resource. And our revenue will come from the sales of our products and some donations. Our value proposition is to reduce waste, increase incomes to smallholder farmers, create employment, gender empowerment and make profits
The project can be financed by us investing in the business, investors and donors.
We have involved the private sector a crucial sector in our country and all they are fostering is sustainability and good value chain of the idea.
We have done a test to all our products and our paper will compete with the tree paper because banana tree paper is strong, durable, low flammability, high tolerance to moisture outweighing the current tree paper. The technology involved is simple thus lowering the cost of production directly impacting the cost of the products thus they will be affordable than the current tree paper.
We segmented our market and we will focus on the local market specifically Nairobi. During our test phase of our products after developing samples we did market surveys and analysis physically by involving our potential clients, government agencies on standards and quality regulations. We will sell our paper to drawing artists, printing firms, fast food restaurants and groceries to pack food, fibre to weavers, sanitary towels to woman and girls. The Biochar to homes and industries for heating. We will sell direct to clients, retail shops and book stores