BY BRYCE GUERRERO
Paper production using island vegetation has begun as of February on Kosrae. Green Banana Paper Co. is a paper and fiber company owned by Matthew Simpson. Looking to create exports and new jobs for the island, he began brainstorming ways to utilize Kosrae’s natural resources.
“I did some research for a couple years, kind of looking around at what we have that’s sustainable and […] non-perishable, easy enough for us to make, environmentally friendly and could actually work,” Simpson told the Journal. “When you come to Kosrae, one of the things you notice is how green it is here and how many plants there are. We have an abundance of jungle [and] agricultural waste.”
Simpson found that he could use Kosrae’s banana trees, taro plant stems and pineapple leaves to create industrial quantities of fibers with the help of the right machinery. He began producing fiber in October.
He said the two most basic uses for the fibers are weaving and making yarn.
“You pulp up the fibers and you can make various products with that — paper products and even beauty products. […] Instead of fiberglass, you can use banana fiber as a natural fiber replacement,” Simpson said. “This stuff has really good qualities. It’s naturally water-resistant. It is naturally fire-resistant. It’s strong. It lasts for a lot longer than tree-based products and papers.”
Green Banana Paper Co. also utilizes the fronds of areca palms to create plates and bowls.
“They’re really good. They can be used in place of Styrofoam. They’re microwaveable. They’re refrigerator-safe, heatproof, waterproof, compostable, reusable […] and very beautiful,” he said.
The company utilizes a full-scale paper mill. Six individuals are employed with Green Banana Paper Co., with 10 being the future goal.
Simpson’s first startup, Simpson’s Import Co., imports computers, electronics and office supplies that are not readily available to Kosrae’s businesses.
“I basically took my savings and capital from my other business and put it into a new business trying to create jobs and create exports,” he said.
The process of getting the machinery to operate Green Banana Paper Co. was extensive. Simpson said the fiber extraction equipment from India took a year to acquire and arrive, and the paper-making equipment arrived three to four months afterwards.
As for who he will sell the specialized paper, he said he is working on finding niche markets.
“We’re trying to collaborate with some local artists out here to make prints, to make postcards, to make fancy stationaries. One of my goals is to have the governor of Kosrae and the president — whenever they want to write a correspondence letter with some dignitary somewhere, and they want to hand write it, my hope is that it would be on Micronesian-made paper. From there we’re hoping to access the foreign markets by the Internet, but right now I’ll do whatever comes up,” he said.
Simpson said his business is looking for distributors, artists for collaborations and visitors to Kosrae interested in papermaking workshops.
Green Banana Paper Co., started by Matthew Simpson in Kosrae, began producing fiber in October and paper in February from the island’s agricultural waste.
Photos courtesy of Green Banana Paper Co.