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Victoria Curiel and her sargassum-paper notebooks. Victoria Curiel and her sargassum-paper notebooks.

Paper from sargassum? Quintana Roo student develops a process

She is now selling notebooks made from her unique paper at a local artisans' market

A 17-year-old high school student from Cozumel, Quintana Roo, has come up with an innovative use for sargassum: she’s making paper out of it.

Victoria Curiel Morfil told the newspaper El Financiero that she came up with the idea to use the smelly brown seaweed as part of a paper-making process while walking her dog and seeing discarded notebooks in the sargassum on the beach.

After a few unsuccessful attempts, Curiel did some online research and realized that she needed to mix cellulose from the nopal or maguey plant with the sargassum in order for it to be turned into paper.

The process she has now perfected involves collecting the seaweed and letting it dry in order to get rid of any microorganisms it is carrying.

The sargassum is then hydrated again using a water solution containing salt and other additives which eliminate its offensive smell.

The next step is to turn the seaweed into a paste into which recycled paper from the discarded notebooks is mixed.

Finally, Curiel turns the mixture into paper, which she uses to create new notebooks featuring her own designs. She is now selling them at local artisans’ markets for between 10 and 80 pesos.

“Here on the island I live with my mom but my mom has a back injury that prevents her from working so I had been very worried about our economic situation and my future university studies,” she said.

“I want to keep growing [my business] and helping the planet and why not create my own notebook and paper production company worldwide,” she added.

Curiel is now planning on using another unlikely material to produce paper: cigarette butts.

Sargassum has washed up on the coast of Quintana Roo en masse this year, leading a state businessman to develop an innovative project using the seaweed.

By mixing it with adobe, Omar Vázquez Sánchez discovered that sargassum can be used to build earthquake and hurricane-resistant homes.

Source: El Financiero (sp) 

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