Pineapples are tasty, though the way they are grown leaves a bitter aftertaste. The pineapple farms in Costa Rica – the world’s market leader in the pineapple trade – produce up to 300 tonnes of plant waste every week. The thick leaves of the pineapple are difficult to compost and must be laboriously ploughed back, incinerated or treated with chemicals to be dried out. What’s more, the waste that remains on the fields is a breeding ground for the mosquitoes that afflict local livestock, resulting in lost yields for cattle owners. Using the waste from the pineapple plant, students at Leibniz University Hanover (LUH) have now developed an environmentally friendly alternative to wood as a source for paper. It is hoped that this method will soon enter production at a pilot facility in Costa Rica. The young founders of the eco:fibr project want to market the pulp obtained through it in locations such as Lower Saxony. The Lower Saxony Ministry of Business established the “Founders’ Grants” programme in May 2019, and, after winning this programme’s 100th grant, three members of the 14-person team are currently being sponsored by the state of Lower Saxony with a total amount of EUR 33,000. The sponsorship is aimed at start-ups (up to three recipients per start-up) that receive support from a university, start-up centre or other accelerator. eco:fibr is part of the Enactus student initiative. It seeks to solve global social and ecological problems through entrepreneurial action. With more than 70,000 students in total, Enactus is one of the largest entrepreneurship initiatives worldwide. The vision of the eco:fibr team is that no tree is cut down unnecessarily to manufacture paper; currently, around one in five trees goes into paper production.
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