Paper made from grass

The weekly Verdigris blog

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Scheufelen Paper, a leading European maker of coated premium paper products for the graphics business, is developing a new paper based on grass. Scheufelen’s new development has interesting potential as an exciting alternative for packaging, as well as being suitable for graphic papers.

In common with most of the paper industry, Scheufelen Paper has seen its traditional business decline, so a couple of years ago it started developing grass-based papers. The company recently attracted further investment to develop its ideas and products from the Green Growth Fund 2 (GGF2). The GGF2 targets energy and resource-efficient companies in the European Union and supports them to grow globally. GGF2’s investment in Scheufelen allows the company to scale up development and production of grasspaper products in the hope of seriously disrupting the paper industry.

Scheufelen claims that manufacture of this new substrate consumes less than half the resources of processes using chemical cellulose sourced from wood. This is because the raw material, sun-dried grass, used in grass papers is sourced close to its point of manufacture and because production requires 50% less energy and chemicals. It also saves 6,000 liters of water per ton compared to alternative processes, and collapses supply chains taking out the emissions associated with transport. Scheufelen’s product is based on fresh fiber pulp and turning it into paper requires far less water and energy. The company says it uses less than a liter of water per ton and 4.8 fewer tons of carbon dioxide to manufacture grasspaper and that it requires no processing chemicals.

Tray and carton applications with ‘bio-based water and fat barriers’

Scheufelen’s grasspaper can be used for office papers and books, but perhaps more interesting is that it can also work for packaging. This industry is worth many billions and these new grass-based papers can apparently be used instead of petro-chemical based plastics. Scheufelen expects to develop products suitable for corrugated and folding box food packaging applications, and as grasspaper has ‘bio-based water and fat barriers,’ the company expects it to replace food pouches, trays, cups, foils, and cards made from plastic. Scheufelen board member Andreas Rohardt has 30 years’ experience in the wood, pulp and paper industry and says that “just as people switched from fresh-fiber white paper to recycled paper en masse in the past, we expect people to shift now from plastic and recycled paper bags, trays, packaging foils with their negative health effects to grasspaper, which is cost-competitive with a smaller environmental footprint and [carries] less health risks.”

The increase in funding will be used to scale up grasspaper production to significant monthly volumes, primarily for food and retail applications; and grasspaper can be readily recycled and composted. If this is all true and everything goes to plan, Scheufelen’s grasspaper could indeed seriously disrupt the paper industry.

Laurel Brunner is long-time industry expert and analyst who worked for the Seybold Report on Publishing Systems in the pioneering days of computer-aided typesetting and the subsequent digitalization of print media. She is currently the editor of Spindrift and also a lead participant for environmental standards in print within the ISO TC 130 committee for the graphic arts.

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This article was produced by the Verdigris Project, an industry initiative intended to raise awareness of print’s positive environmental impact. This weekly commentary helps printing companies keep up to date with environmental standards, and how environmentally friendly business management can help improve their bottom lines. Verdigris is supported by the following companies: Agfa Graphics, EFI, Fespa, HP, Kodak, Kornit, Ricoh, Spindrift, Splash PR, Unity Publishing and Xeikon.

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