April 14, 2021

Recycled papers that bloom, a commitment to the environment

The paper used has a new life in the laboratory of the Bolivian Cecilia Tapia, which combines it with vegetable fibers such as banana, pineapple or totora leaves, and seeds to create artisanal and artistic folios that even bloom if they are planted.

Environmental engineer by profession, Tapia has explained to Efe that he has always had the concern to contribute to the care of the environment, especially through recycling.

"It motivated me a little to inspire people to use paper on both sides, to recycle it, to take care of our biodiversity, trees," he says.

This has led him to create Bohemia Paper, a project with a "conservation" approach, with the conviction that "each person can contribute a grain of sand" to that purpose.

At the end of the university, he won a contest for entrepreneurs that allowed him to access a "seed capital" of one thousand dollars (900 euros), with which Bohemia Papel was able to create in 2012.

When the initiative began, the entrepreneur had to combine it with her work in a non-governmental organization, although three years ago she left it to give herself 100% to her project.

Tapia moves now in his workshop in La Paz amid shelves full of papers of different types, various materials, plant waste and huge buckets full of water to soak the folios.

The elaboration process begins with the collection of disused papers, white sheets or notebooks, in addition to cardboards, with offices and schools as their main suppliers.

"What we cannot use is fax paper, carbon paper, plasticized papers or magazines that are couché and others, or newspaper," he says.

The entrepreneur shows how the papers then go through a process of chopping, soaking and a kind of smoothie to make the pulp, the basis for making new craft leaves.

The novelty in these biodegradable papers is that the pulp is mixed with seeds, vegetable fibers, peels, bioresidues, banana leaves, cattails – a native reed of Lake Titicaca – or dried flowers "to give textures and colors to the paper," says Tapia .

The paper that carries seeds "can return to the earth", because putting it in a pot "can give flowers" or herbs such as chamomile, or other natives such as huacataya and quirquiña, "which are the ones we are using," he says .

A sample is on their own business cards, which on the back have graphics and the legend "Sow Me. Take care of me. See a new life grow", to encourage them to become a plant if they are put on the ground and they are water.

To make these folios use only seeds that measure a millimeter, "that may be contained within the paper", while for the more artistic use other elements such as mixtures or pieces of pencils.

The production of Bohemia Paper is manual and involves a "laborious" process, so its finish is "unique."

"Each sheet is different from the others, so it is valued by artists and foreigners looking for alternative products that are of a sustainable and environmentally friendly process, since we do not use chlorine or toxic anilines," says Tapia.

Bohemia Paper produces business cards, agendas, bookmarks, certificates, wedding or birthday invitations, and books, among others.

On a daily basis, Tapia produces between 30 and 40 sheets, although special orders, such as papers with dried flowers or coca leaves, take a little longer, because "we have to work them in more detail."

Another characteristic of the production of Bohemia Paper is that it can be "customized" to suit the client and in creative ways, presenting, for example, the menu of a cafeteria on papers made with the coffee grounds of the establishment.

The Tapia workshop is in La Paz, but the entrepreneur points out that "more people can do this activity", so she also conducts training, especially in rural communities so that other women "can generate a job."

Bohemia Paper has received orders from the United States or Germany, although its main clients are local "socio-environmental" enterprises, which demand elements such as clothing labels or to identify packaging.

The message that Tapia seeks to give with its initiative is that it is possible to "generate an economy from materials that are not being used and that instead of going to a landfill", a garbage dump, "they can be given a second chance ".

He also wants to show that it is possible to produce "in an environmentally friendly way, without contaminating water or soil."

Gina Baldivieso

. (tagsToTranslate) Recycled papers (t) (t) flower (t) bet (t) environment

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