The production of alternative materials to hardwood in communities that plant banana and pupunha palm trees (from which the heart of palm is extracted) is the proposal of micro company Fibra Design Sustentável (Fibra Sustainable Design).
The project was established by students at the School of Industrial Design (Esdi) at the University of the State of Rio de Janeiro (UERJ).
They developed the bananaplac and the pupunha plywood, which have potential for replacing noble woods in the manufacturing of furniture and coatings.
The micro company is currently in a pre-incubation stage in the recently established Design Incubator at UERJ. The manager of the Incubator, Wagner Bretas, said that this is a means for these communities, usually comprised of impoverished people, to have a new alternative for job and income generation. "There is a social work involved as well," he said.
The project "will take something that was considered as waste and expands the life cycle for the species, to a consumer market capable of generating income for the population, seeking an industrial application and straying away a bit from craftwork," according to one of the founders of Fibra Design Sustentável, student Thiago Machado Maia.
The project will include the installation of Model Production Units (UMPs) in the various banana- and pupunha-planting communities. Thiago Maia said that the Fibra company is negotiating with Fundação Odebrecht, in Bahia, to install the first unit for producing bananaplac in a banana-planting region assisted by the organization.
"The idea is to create production hubs." According to Thiago, since this involves a fund-raising process, partnerships with private companies would be welcome.
The Fibra Design Sustentável company requested funding from the Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES) to set up a laboratory in UERJ. The unit is also going to use natural fibers, in order to develop new materials, products and applications for these raw materials.
"There is a whole design aspect involved. After the new materials are developed, they are going to seek companies interested in producing and selling these materials and products," Bretas said.
According to Thiago, the objective is to obtain non-repayable funds from the BNDES Technological Fund to set up the laboratory for research and development of material made out of residue form the biofuels agro industry.
He said that the company also has the goal of using residue form other plants, such as castor bean and canola. The goal is the same: to replace wood. "The line of research and application is the same," he said.
Students at the Esdi are betting high on bananaplac, but up until now they only managed to use the product for coating. "The idea is to use thin panels to replace Formica."
The application of bananaplac in the form of structural plates is not viable yet, because resources for deeper research are lacking. Nevertheless, when produced in large scale, the product will become competitive in the market, the student said.