BreakThrough Interview

Raw Material Revolution with Paper Powder Gathering Worldwide AttentionEco Research Institute Co., Ltd.

2016.12.15

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Products Created from MAPKA

  • This new material is made by mixing resin with "paper powder," a powder form of large volumes of disposed paper, and it comes with the revolutionary benefit of having low environmental impact.

Failure in consulting lead to a recycling business

Eco Research Institute Co., Ltd. (ERI), established in 1998 by Takamichi Matsushita (CEO), began as a consulting business. Matsushita worked at a large nonlife insurance company and decided to start the company to support and develop environment-related venture businesses. ERI's first customer was a company that said it hoped to run a recycling business using “okara (tofu refuse)”, but later discovered that it was a fraud with its business plan having no substance, causing Matsushita to incur major loss. In the end, Matsushita was only left with a patent for creating cushioning materials from okara, which ERI had received from the company as collateral. Matsushita regretted that he had trusted the customer too easily and that he had been naive, but he decided that he would use this technology to venture out into the recycling business.

This complete about-turn from the consulting business meant that Matsushita had to start learning about manufacturing from scratch, and he soon learned that okara, which has high water content, is an unsuitable material for cushioning. While he went around looking for a material that could replace okara, he was out of luck. Exactly when he was about to throw in the towel, a disposal business contractor he knew brought in a “powder-form paper” that had been disposed by a bookbindery. He immediately tested it and discovered that it may be possible to process it into a cushioning material with sufficient quality. This incident set ERI's course to use disposed paper as raw material for its recycling business.

Paper Powder (Left) and MAPKA Pellet (Right)

Successful development of a new material by mixing paper powder with resin

Paper Powder is created from applying original powdering technology to the remnants of largely discarded paper that cannot be used for products (i.e. waste paper) from paper manufacturing companies and printing factories, which is then turned into 25 to 50 micron powder format. Industrial starch and polyolefin resin are kneaded into this powder format paper, and then turned into water vapor foam without any foaming agent, which produces a cushioning material called "Earth Republic." Over 55% of the material is made from natural ingredients, and it produces zero toxic gas during incineration because it doesn't use any substances with environmental impact. A major automaker uses Earth Republic as cushioning material, and a major house manufacturer uses it as floor heat insulation material.

MAPKA (Moldable Paper Kankyo), a pellet-form new material with polyolefin resin kneaded into paper powder, can be molded by injection, extrusion, sheet molding, and thermoforming, just as conventional plastic materials. It features excellent low shrinkage, high stiffness, and heat-resistant qualities. As a combustible material, it does not produce toxic gas when incinerated, and it reduces CO2 emissions by roughly 28% compared to plastic raw materials. It has various applications as a replacement for plastic, such as food trays, cups, consumer electronic components, combs, brushes, chopsticks, stationery, and more.

Currently, ERI has four production bases in Japan (Sapporo, Ibaraki, Chiba, Okayama) and two production bases overseas (U.S., South Korea), where products such as earth republic and MAPKA are being manufactured.

earth republic

Role of paper powder in the post-plastic age

Paper powder is ERI’s original technology not found anywhere else in the world In Japan, ERI won Special Recognition at the Tokyo Venture Technology Awards in 2013, and was selected in the Global Niche Top Companies Selection 100 by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry in 2014. It has also received numerous honors overseas, including the US President’s Commission Gold Award in 2011 and beatification by Pope Benedict XVI in 2011.

Regulations against chemicals are expected to become even stricter across the globe as seen in the REACH regulations enacted by the EU in 2007. There is growing interest in earth republic and MAPKA as materials that can replace plastic and Styrofoam, and surely the role played by ERI will also be increasingly important.
creation. Eventually, we hope this will become our core business alongside earth republic and MAPKA.

Matsushita states, “Going forward, we will support businesses in reusing biomass resources in the local community to contribute to regional creation. Eventually, we hope this will become our core business alongside earth republic and MAPKA."

ERI’s Ibaraki Plant
ERI’s U.S. Plant (Midland, Michigan)

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Eco Research Institute Co., Ltd.

MAPKA® is our trade name of paper powder reinforced plastic composites. Based on our unique dry paper grinding system, we have developed one & only business model, consisting of fiber know-how, unique machine design, processing expertise,compounding experiences and molding techniques. We must not forget the needs of customers.

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