Valentyn Frechka

​​Turning fallen leaves into sustainably made paper​

Young Inventors Prize
Technical field
Textile and paper machines
​​Releaf Paper France SAS​
​​New-generation technology that addresses deforestation and carbon emissions by transforming leaves into eco-friendly paper has been developed by Valentyn Frechka, a young Ukrainian inventor.​

First runner-up in the Young Inventors Prize

Through Releaf Paper, a start-up borne from a school science project, Valentyn Frechka has been refining a process that uses cellulose from fallen leaves for paper production. The leaves - sourced from city parks, squares, green zones and other urban areas - would ordinarily be burned or composted (which creates expenses for the city) and if left uncollected or incinerated, emit carbon dioxide. Frechka's innovative process reduces both waste and emissions. 

The leaves undergo grinding and softening, followed by a mild chemical process that uses sodium hydroxide, hydrogen peroxide and acetic acid. This allows the extraction of cellulose without damaging the leaf’s delicate structure. The pulp is then mixed with bio-fillers to create paper for various products such as bags and cardboard. The technology is highly efficient, producing one tonne of cellulose from 2.3 tonnes of fallen leaves, equal to 17 trees using traditional methods.

From school project to successful start-up 

Frechka was driven by his love for nature and a desire to create something meaningful from a young age. “When I was 16 years old at school, I learned about biopolymers like cellulose and how companies cut down trees to get the pulp and turn it into paper. I thought, ‘Why not use something else?’”. He soon embarked on a school project to repurpose fallen leaves. His idea quickly gained traction, participating in national Olympiads, and, in 2020, he founded Releaf Paper.

Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022, Frechka relocated to France and together with his partner continued building the company. Releaf Paper has already acquired major clients such as L'Oréal, Chanel and Samsung, satisfying a growing demand for sustainable packaging. With the global market for kraft paper expected to reach €16.95 billion by 2030, Releaf Paper’s pilot plant opening in 2024, and plans to establish production across Europe, the company is on a mission to transform the packaging industry.

Towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs)

The process reduces deforestation, lowers CO2 emissions and uses less water than conventional paper production. Releaf Paper's technology therefore contributes to SDG 9 (Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure) and SDG 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production).