Tesfaye Mekonnen started his paper recycling business in 2015 with the vision of producing environmentally friendly handmade paper out of waste paper and natural organic fibres, which are easily available in Ethiopia. His educational background is Theology (Masters) and Community Development (BA). The integration of these two disciplines opened his eyes to see the resources in and around the region.

His approach was that if he is able to change the waste paper, cartons and banana fibre into paper, he could change not only his life but that of others as he would be able to open job opportunities for many people, especially for women. In his company 95 % of the workers are women. He said “change started inside out. If I am able to change my thinking that is the core for every part of life.”



  • Educational background, Theology (Masters) and Community Development (BA) level.
  • Tesfaye started the business as soon as he finished his education. He developed the idea while he was attending university. Tesfaye launched the business with his own funds was able to receive a grant from the Ethiopian Climate Innovation Center after competing with hundreds of other applicants. Only half has been received to date.


Currently, the business is in Lafto Sub-city Wereda 02 in a 100m2 compound with a shed granted to him from the government under the Small and Micro Enterprises Agency. His paper recycling and manufacturing operation are using about 220kg of waste paper, banana leaves, pineapple leaves and cotton wastes per day.

If these products are not used for recycling, these materials are organic fractions, when they get disposed, the transportation of these waste materials the trucks releases a certain amount of greenhouse gases. This also occurs after they are disposed of in the open dumping site/Repi as there will be biological degradation and illegal burning, which ultimately release greenhouse gases (CH4, CO2, etc.) into the atmosphere.

By making papers from such materials, Tesfaye’s firm has changed the waste materials by recycling them into more than 28 different kinds of paper products that are displayed in more than 15 shops in Addis and other parts of the country. These products include paper bags, greeting cards, and shoe packaging among others.



  • Currently, the firm is utilizing only one-fourth of the capacity of the machinery that is recycling100kg of waste cotton cloths per day.
  • Grant funds awarded are not fully received (disbursement is in phases) and are badly needed in order to buy machines that will enhance the papermaking process in quality and quantity. Given the importance of the machines, Tesfaye is looking for other solutions to improve the quality and quantity of paper production.
  • The firm also needs technical support in terms of an expert on paper production from cotton
  • Additional space is needed for current operations


Their products are environmentally friendly. They are chemical-free and easily degradable. The paper bags are intended to replace plastic bags that pollute the environment.



In addition, the firm hires mostly women as they were found to particularly good in understanding the recycling process easily and could make the quality of papers needed. Ninety-five per cent of employees are women. The women were hired from nearby so they would not need to travel long distances.

The firm currently sells its various products in Addis and other regions of Ethiopia. They have been able to penetrate the market despite various challenges. They have also been able to work with shoe companies among others in terms of providing packaging.

With sufficient financial and technical support, Tesfaye and partners intend to scale up operations at the local level. They seek to have a wider volume of products and also expand the distribution of these products.


$40,000- $50,000 USD