It’s no wonder Valentyn Frechka is passionate about the environment – a native of Sokyrnytsia, a small village in the Ukrainian Carpathians, he has been surrounded by nature from birth. As a young child, he was raised by strict grandparents while his parents were away working in the Czech Republic. He was bullied by his classmates and seldom allowed to go out with friends or watch television, but Valentyn is grateful for the time this gave him to dedicate to amateur science experiments. While still at school, he wrote an essay on producing paper from fallen leaves. Now on an academic break from Kyiv National University, Valentyn has turned his idea into reality with the launch of his start-up, RE-leaf PAPER. The company uses ground-breaking technology to turn fallen leaves into sustainable packaging materials.
Valentyn’s entrepreneurial drive stems from his childhood ambition of being successful and famous. But rather than aspiring to become a rock star or a Hollywood actor, Valentyn looks up to Elon Musk, someone who has pioneered solutions applicable on a global level. Keen to share his experiences with other budding changemakers, Valentyn develops educational and social projects to motivate, teach and encourage young people to take an active role in their spheres of interest. In 2019, he organised ‘Eco-cards 2019’, and helped children fulfil a large company’s orders for Christmas cards made out of recycled paper. To help foster collaboration and spread knowledge globally, Valentyn worked with the Junior Academy of Sciences of Ukraine to launch an educational programme bringing together Ukrainian and Kenyan students. With the help of special satellite software, the Ukrainian children explored the Masai settlements, while the children in Kenya explored Kyiv. And last summer, as part of the European Design Upgrade, Valentyn mentored a team developing an urban water collection system.
Valentyn’s research activities have enabled him to take part in competitions all over the world. In 2018, he won both the 2018 Golden Climate Olympiad in Kenya, and the Genius Olympiad in the US. Last year, he was included in Forbes Ukraine’s ‘30 Under 30’ list.
If he wins the $50,000, Valentyn will use the funds to grow his business. In particular, he hopes to produce a prototype based on a new method RE-leaf PAPER has developed to make clothes out of leaves. Some of the money would also go to a project aimed at stopping deforestation, as well as the creation of botanical gardens.