About 24 young senior high school girls from Ghana are placing their country on the global map with their innovation that transforms banana and plantain stems into paper bags.
The girls, from the Methodist Girls High School in Ghana’s Eastern Region, came up with the idea as an alternative to plastics. They were motivated by a global drive for environmentally friendly lifestyles and products.
Ghana is reported to have imported $22.3 million worth of uncoated craft paper alone in 2017, proving that there is a healthy market for the paper-making industry in the country.
Speaking with Citinewsroom, two members of the team, Maame Yaa Ohene-Eku and Naa Shormeh Nortey, described how the idea came up in their school’s entrepreneurship club after they identified the environmental damage that plastics cause.
The girls further explained that there was a need to find solutions to plastic waste through paper packaging. With that, they had to find the best alternative to making paper beyond using trees.
“We found that Plantain stem had the fibre that can be used to manufacture paper,” Naa Shormeh recalled. They made this discovery after they had conducted some research into how well banana and plantain stems could be used to make paper.
According to Citi Business, the process involves taking the stems of the plant, drying them, cutting them up into pieces after which they are boiled and then the boiled stalks are milled for the pulp. Next, what is left is dried again, turning it into paper.
“The paper, which is brown in colour, generally known as uncoated craft paper, can be used for packaging and boxes”, reports Citinewsroom.
The girls say that the stem produces about 50 bags and already, their group, known as Akoma Inc., is looking to increase its production, provided it receives financial support to meet that expectation.
In the meantime, the girls only depend on the little support they get from their parents and from their school even as willing buyers are already looking out to their products.
They also indicate that they have started a plastic return programme to encourage people to bring in plastics they no longer need. The move, according to the students, is an innovative way of gaining value for their work.