“My Patent Will Turn Croatia Into Global Paper Industry Giant”

Total Croatia News

This is the first significant change in the world of paper cellulose production in decades.

It might sound impossible, but it is true: there is a large company in Croatia, a strategic industry, worth 213 million kunas, which employs 300 workers in Zagreb and Donji Andrijevci, and which is about to start a global revolution. The company is the question is the Pan Paper Industry – the Zagreb Paper Factory, headquartered in Đakovo, reports Večernji List on December 7, 2017.

The company has a plan to undertake an investment that will double the profit of Slavonian farmers and which could result in a dozen new paper mills in Croatia with several thousand new jobs. Croatia would thus become the world’s largest producer of cellulose and all kinds of paper.

The plan is an idea of Marinko Mikulić, who started the family business. “I have been involved in paper production my whole life,” says Mikulić, who is a lawyer. The crown of his lifelong passion for paper is a patent with the international designation WO 2015/150841 “Continuous process of cellulose pulp production from grass plants”.

You may believe that everything connected with paper production must have been discovered a long time ago. The cellulose and paper have been produced by some of the most technologically advanced countries in the world for centuries, so it is impossible there is anything new which can be discovered. While that is all true, the production of paper from trees, due to the vast amounts of wastewater and chemicals, is one of the potentially most significant pollutants in the environment. And Marinko Mikulić’s patent envisages a process of producing cellulose in which no wastewater or chemicals are used or produced at all. This is not some kind of hypothetical process. His findings have been checked and confirmed by the Institute for Paper in Ljubljana and the Faculty of Graphic Arts in Zagreb.

Cellulose is everywhere around us, and it is the most widespread organic compound on Earth. It is a polymer of glucose and a major constituent part of plant cell walls. It is used for paper production, but although it is abundant in nature, it is complicated to be reached, because it is bound to other elements. To get it extracted from chopped wood, it is necessary to boil it in high-pressure basins, and water and chemicals then have to be separated and purified by complicated and expensive procedures.

In comparison, Mikulić’s patent is a sensational innovation, perhaps the most significant patent Croatia has ever developed, equal to Pliva’s Sumamed. “In my opinion, and the opinion of the greatest experts from the European Union, this will be the first major change in the technology of cellulose production in the world in the last hundred years,” says Mikulić. “For the first time, we have a process in which there is no wastewater, so there is no possibility of polluting the environment.”

Currently, the Pan Paper Factory in Zagreb is producing new paper from an old waste paper by recycling, just like it is done with 55 percent of all new paper in the European Union However, the Zagreb plant is not the first plant owned by Mikulić. “We started with clover,” says Mikulić. “In 1983, I bought a clover meadow in Donji Andrijevci and built a cardboard packaging factory there. With a lot of will and with the help of brothers from Australia, we started a large craft shop which we registered in 1987 as the first private company in the former Yugoslavia.”

In 1994, Mikulić bought half of bankrupt Zagreb Paper Plant from Privredna Banka Zagreb at a public auction. “Zagreb was the greatest mistake of my life,” says Mikulić. “If we had built a whole new paper factory in Andrijevci, we would have saved us a lot of nerves and money. Now we have two very distant locations, which makes things difficult.” This problem and some not too good investments have brought Pan into financial difficulties. But, it has recently concluded a pre-bankruptcy settlement with creditors, and it can continue with the production, but not at the location in Zagreb. The plant will have to move. According to the latest changes to the zoning plans, the site’s location has been turned from an industrial zone into a mixed building zone.

Mikulić’s plan now is to move the giant machines from Zagreb to Donji Andrijevci, right next to the plant which is already there and have the whole production at one location. And another completely new facility will be built in Slatina, where he already owns a plot and a building permit. He just needs more money and knows how to get it. “We already have buyers for land plots in Zagreb, and we will use the money to build the new factory,” says Mikulić.

And why has he selected Slatina for his new plant? “Slatina is near the Drava River. If we build a dock, we could transport our products throughout Europe. Also, Slatina is surrounded by fields from which the new cellulose factory could get raw materials. The peasants will sell us what they now consider waste, and they will immediately double their income, without any additional investments,” says Mikulić. The third reason is geothermal water source in the area, which could be used to produce electricity and provide water for the paper mill.

Finally, what do Pan and Marinko Mikulić’s plans mean for Croatia? The paper industry, in general, employs 56 million people in the European Union. “It is the main, strategic industry of every developed country,” says Mikulić. The Union produces more than 100 million tons of cellulose per year, and imports, mostly from Brazil and Canada, another eight million tons. With Mikulić’s patent, Croatia could undoubtedly produce cellulose at the same price as Canada and Brazil, and sell it ten percent cheaper due to lower transport costs.

Translated from Večernji List.


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