Just imagine you scribble on a piece of paper, throw it out of the window, (not a very nice thing to do), and a week later, you notice a tiny plant has sprouted from it. Isn't it a surprise? You have become the earth-saver!
We all know about papyrus, the first type of paper used by ancient Egyptians for writing. Over the years, papers have been produced by felling hundreds and thousands of trees every year across the world. Which is again, not very nice for the environment.
Mahbub Sumon, the managing director of Shalbrikkho – a company with "…a quest for a minimalist and ecologically sensitive society", has introduced a paper, which serves as your paper boat, writing material and then, when you throw it away, sprouts into a patch of plants.
He is calling the product Bonkagoj – a handmade paper that can be used like any other ordinary paper.
But it is no ordinary paper because after using it just put it on a pot of earth, water it and wait for nine days and you will be on a mission of growing your own little vegetable patch or flower garden.
The paper must be used within a year because otherwise the embedded seeds may not germinate.
"The idea first came from recycling single-use paper," Mahbub said.
Objects like business cards, invitation cards, notebooks have a short lifespan. Shalbrikkho started to gather these waste paper and produce an eco-friendly and sustainable product, he added.
The idea is not new. This biodegradable eco-paper has been used in the United States since 1941.
In 2016, Japanese daily, The Mainichi Shimbunsha, first introduced the "Green Newspaper", a 100% sustainable newspaper made of recycled and vegetable paper. So, you finish reading the news, plant the paper in the pot, and grow a garden. In other words, it is newspaper that blooms!
"Bonkagoj came to life with three motives: first mass awareness on environment, solving the food and nutrition crisis and breaking the stereotype monoculture agriculture in Bangladesh," Sumon said.
When asked about the production procedure, Sumon said that Bonkagoj follows the same production procedure as any other handmade paper.
Used paper is collected, then shred, soaked, blended, turned into pulp and placed in dice to make Bonkagoj.
The only difference is that seeds are spread on the processed pulp in the last stage, just before applying the heat and pressure to obtain the final product.
"My engineer knowledge has helped me a lot in this venture. I have customized the machinery for my needs and worked 14 hours a day to pursue this goal," Mahbub recounted his early days.
"Shalbrikko is planning to introduce other varieties of Bonkagoj. Since we are still in the research phase, Bonkagoj is still not suitable for printing paper," Mahbub said adding that it can be used as screen print or handprint.
Bonkagoj is a lot thicker than normal writing paper. It is five grams heavier – thanks to the seed embedded in it. An A4 size Bonkagoj weighs approximately 10 grams. In addition, visiting and invitation cards made from Bonkagoj weighed 14grams and 16.25grams respectively.
Currently the manufacturing efficiency of Bonkagoj is not very high. While 60-80 pieces of ordinary paper can be produced every two hours, Bonkagoj's production in that duration is as low as only five pieces. However, Mahbub hopes that after developing the system in full swing, his team can increase the production.
Bonkagoj will be pricier compared to the ordinary paper due to the physical and intellectual labour spent behind the project. For now, each piece of A4 size writing paper costs 66Tk, visiting card paper 85Tk and invitation card paper 100Tk.
Although the manual production is pricier, Mahbub does not want to introduce any powered production process yet.
"We have worked hard to reach this stage. We are still trying to make it better every day. So, the price is a little higher than normal. However, we are trying to make it affordable for middle-class people," Mahbub said.
Currently, Shalbrikkho is working on three sustainable eco-friendly projects: Pyrolysis, a machine to produce diesel from waste plastic. Currently they have one plant at Deobhog of Chashara in Narayangonj.
It is also producing 'Tium', an eco-friendly jug and 'Koa' a drinking cup, both made from bamboo.
Their upcoming projects include leaf plates: an alternative of plastic one-time use plates. They are planning to introduce it within the first quarter of next year.
Shalbrikkho is also working to launch an alternative to polythene-shopping bags by the month of June 2020. It is expected to be transparent, strong yet disposable, unlike polythene, Mahbub also said.