Faced with the need for the use of paper and cardboard boxes for packaging by the trade, sustainable alternatives to traditional paper are being considered, such as grass paper, made from grass waste, whose raw material is fast growing, protects natural resources and the environment.
This idea was developed by Uwe D'Agnone, owner of the family business Hennefer Creapaper in North Rhine-Westphalia. This small company manufactures paper from hay as an alternative to wood. The green pruning of any meadow is valid for his invention.
Unlike wood, grass contains hardly any lignin, a natural glue that holds the long, thin fibers of cellulose together. To dissolve this natural glue, traditional papermaking requires a lot of energy, water and chemistry. According to the German Federation for the Environment, BUND, a paper shopping bag is ecologically more sustainable, compared to a plastic, if reused at least eight times.
According to D'Agnone, the ecological footprint of grass paper is smaller and consumes only one tenth of the energy needed to make conventional paper. For this purpose, 2 litres of water per tonne of grass fibres are used instead of the 6,000 litres required for the same amount of wood as the raw material.
"Per tonne of wood pulp produces 510 kilos of CO2," says D'Agnone. The same amount is released when a person uses the electricity generated by coal throughout the year. "We save 75%," says the inventor. Even compared to recycled paper pulp, it accounts for 25% less CO2 emissions.
Depending on the purpose, paper can have up to 60% grass. The rest is made of fresh wood and recycled material, like conventional paper.
More than 20 factories in Germany, the Netherlands and Italy are already working with their granulate. Of course, paper made from grass is still far from replacing conventional paper made from wood. But with grass, 90% of the usual uses can be designed, said the inventor.
D'Agnone has received many innovation, environmental and business foundation awards along with agricultural scientists from the University of Bonn.
Professor Jukka Valkama, from the Gernsbach Paper Centre at the Dual University of Baden-Württemberg, is, on the other hand, sceptical about the product. Valkama has no figures on the ecological footprint of production, but believes that many substances from the mown grass, which are in the water, must then be purified. Due to the visible fibres, a large amount of grass paper would also have a negative impact on the quality of the paper produced.