Paper for Trees: The Tissue Paper Initiative


PASHA Bank has been deeply involved in the rehabilitation of Borjomi Forest, joining the Aghadgine project in May. This project aims to replant the 750,000 trees which were burned during the 2008 war and a wildfire in summer 2015. The project is ambitious, and PASHA Bank seems to realize this, as it has been introducing partners to the campaign progressively in order to bring together all goodwill institutions who want to help. One of them is Tissue Paper, a company that collects and recycles paper and creates new products with it. Tissue Paper recently announced it will collect paper waste from volunteer companies and donate 0,15 GEL to the Borjomi Forest reforestation project for each kilogram of paper collected.

GEORGIA TODAY spoke to Levan Devadze, General Manager of Tissue Paper, to find out more.

Recycling is a new concept for Georgia. How did Tissue Paper come about?

Tissue Paper was established in 2014 and aims for an environmentally sustainable approach, using paper, from the offices of companies which otherwise consider it waste, as a source to create new products. Our products have gained in popularity because we have an original approach, ensuring good quality and an affordable price, plus they are made in Georgia and from Georgian materials. Because of this, the size of the company and its activity is increasing, as well our workforce: at the beginning, there were 60 people working for us, today we have 135.

We collect our raw material from three sources, which are linked with the principles of our company. We have a collection network which is spread all over the country, especially in big cities such as Tbilisi, Batumi and Kutaisi. Also, as Tissue Paper is part of a publishing company, Palitra Holding, we introduced the idea of making the paper and raw materials into new books. It’s a very interesting and promising campaign which also targets government organizations in the regions. Outside the capital, there are schools, libraries and government organizations which have used paper just waiting to be recycled. Twice a month we have advertising campaigns via local TV channels and by SMS and we also call libraries and schools to inform them on which date our trucks will come to pick up the paper. It works especially well in isolated regions. But it’s not only pick-up trucks, it’s also a sort of bookshop. For example, we give them a portfolio books and in exchange we take their waste paper. Our third campaign started in July and is the campaign of reforestation together with PASHA Bank and BIA Holding.

How do you see the market of waste management in Georgia, and particularly paper waste?

Georgia has huge opportunities for environmentally-oriented business development. Our business is quite low in this sector right now and I hope that Georgian companies will support our government and international organizations to make the necessary changes. Nowadays, we have more opportunities than ever before to introduce new technologies and new production processes. It will save us a lot of money, a lot of time, and potentially have spectacular results quantitatively, in terms of production, but also in society.

Waste management in Georgia is mainly organized by companies themselves, but do you think the public would be more active if public institutions got more involved in waste collection?

One direction for the development of waste management in our country is self-management and the self-organization of the companies themselves to align their activities with an environmental approach. Another direction which could have a bigger impact comes from the government. For example, they introduced cleanliness laws for both private and government companies, which encourages the separation of waste. Such initiatives also impact individuals. Only by doing this can we solve waste issues and the many problems linked with it, such as pollution. It’s also good for environmentally-oriented companies, because without such legislative framework, we lack the raw material resources we need for our recycling process.

So, it’s also good for your company…

Of course, and not only for us, but for other recycling companies, too. And I want to draw your attention to another issue: a lot of countries have protection legislation frameworks which restrict the uncontrolled exportation of raw material. The majority of paper from Georgia is exported, mainly to Turkey. And the problem is that companies there recycle it and then transform it into products they sell in Georgia. We’re losing a lot of surplus value due to this. Our company is also working on protecting raw material from such uncontrolled extraction.

The goal is to rehabilitate the whole Borjomi Forest within 5 years, which means replanting 750,000 trees. How many trees do you plan to plant with this campaign?

We’re not alone in this campaign- there are 15 other companies participating. But for our part, we already gathered 10 tons of paper in 10 days. That means we already gathered enough money to replant 130 trees. But we believe this will increase and we don’t expect to stay at a level of 300-400 trees per month, we know it will increase in the long run. As soon as the companies see the real results of our activity, I think the scope will become quite impressive. And the staff of these companies will probably be proud to contribute to it. In fact, we have a very nice model to attract them: instead of paying money to the companies, we pay the holding and they finance the reforestation. We think this approach will have an impact. We plan to reforest the Borjomi region and also go further because not only have fires affected the area but also a lot of parasitic infestations. In the long run, I think we can plant 18-20,000 trees annually, it’s a realistic prospect.

What is the role of PASHA Bank, the leading company of this program?

It’s the gathering company in this project. Of course, they don’t take commissions. Even in 2008, when the deforestation of Borjomi forest was starting, PASHA Bank independently started a campaign by themselves. But then I think they understood doing it alone didn’t make enough impact, and in mutualizing their successful experience with BIA Holding and Tissue Paper, they realized it would work better. Pasha bank is an idea promoter. And it also uses its client base to increase the scale of the project.

The idea of this campaign is also to empower the chain of tree exploitation and paper production and consumption. Is there also a plan to raise awareness of the fact that paper and trees are a limited resource?

Our campaign includes not only the reforestation program: it’s also a means to promote these issues in schools, for younger generations. The main idea is to show them how they can be active citizens, to teach them how to use materials effectively and to recycle, like in Germany, France and other countries. And, for example, as I know, GEORGIA TODAY has a special edition for schools, Georgia Today Education. This could be used to raise awareness of the teachers. Then we could intervene in schools and explain to children and teachers how important it is to sort raw materials. Activities outside schools can also be important, like in the forests. And step by step there would be more responsible citizens in Georgia. It’s not only through fines and punishment that we can make the streets cleaner; the people also have to take care of their cities. It’s also an issue of self-awareness.

David Mongazon

07 August 2017 17:26