Innovation Provides Alternative Energy Source
Monday, March 8, 2010
Local handmade paper and products marketer and sales agent Phumani Paper is actively involved in assisting community-based enterprises to diversify their income base by introducing innovative products. One of these products is the ecofuel briquette.
University of Johannesburg (UJ) associate professor in the Faculty of Art Design and Architecture Kim Berman explains that the fuel briquette is a round disc made of slightly decomposed and compressed plant matter, with a hole in the centre to allow the flame to breathe and burn.
“The technology of recycling agricultural waste in Phumani Paper craft enterprises around the country provides a synergy in that the waste materials from the handmade papermaking process, including the use of waste plant and paper fibre, used water and rotting or leftover paper pulp, can all be recycled to manufacture fuel briquettes. “These briquettes can be used as an alter- native energy source (for cooking and heating) and contribute to environmental conservation,” she says.
She explains that, as an alternative source of energy, the ecofuel briquette has several additional benefits in the South African context: it is a cheap and efficient source of energy and can assist in job creation; it can preserve indigenous biodiversity through the use of invasive plant species (as raw material); it can boost the local economy; and it is lightweight and can, therefore, be carried over long distances.
The research process of the ecofuel brick project consists of a network of collaborators from different disciplines, based at UJ. The aim is to develop an economically viable and marketable new product to introduce into some of the Phumani Paper enterprises, she adds.
Phumani Paper was originally set up in 2000 as a government-funded poverty alleviation project of the former Technikon Witwatersrand (now UJ) to establish a new cultural industry in handmade paper production in South Africa. It is registered as an independent Section 21 nonprofit company and has developed small business enterprises in handmade papermaking and craft production across the country.