Ukrainian start-up Releaf Paper secures US$2.66M EU funding to build pilot line for cellulose extraction

UKRAINE – Releaf Paper, a Ukrainian-based paper manufacturer has received a US$2.66 million (€2.5m) grant from the European Commission’s EIC Accelerator 2022 program for its pilot line project to extract cellulose from the fibers of fallen leaves.

The start-up will use the proceeds to establish two more production lines in different countries within the next five years.

“We are closer than ever to the goal of starting a series of our own production line of the new generation, where the paper of the future, Releaf paper, will be created,” said Valentyn Frechka, founder of Releaf Paper.

The start-up says that the project is expected to cost US$3.72 million (€3.5m), of which the European Commission has provided over half of the necessary funding.

The first installment of the grant will be paid in April 2023 to cover the following two years.

In addition, the total amount of funding may exceed US$10.63 million (€10m), as the European Commission fund has also agreed to additionally invest in the further scaling of the project.

The development comes after Releaf Paper began exporting its products to EU countries in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The company still does not have its own production facilities. Right now, its founders are choosing the locations for their factories – Germany and Poland are listed as likely contenders – and expanding their team.

“Releaf Paper does not have its own production – at first the paper was produced at the facilities of the Zhytomyr cardboard plant, currently – at the Lutsk cardboard plant. The startup has not yet reached industrial production volumes,” the start-up said.

Founded in 2021, Releaf paper makes paper from fallen leaves, a technology invented by biotechnologist Valentin Frechka, who’s been working on it since he was a 16-year-old student in Ukraine’s western Zakarpattia Oblast.

The start-up claims forest conservation will save 17 trees from being cut down with every tonne of leaf-derived paper it produces.

“When at the end of this year everyone is talking about reducing carbon footprint, deforestation and stopping environmental catastrophe, we are taking real steps to revolutionize the paper industry,” concluded Frechka.

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