Implication of grass fibre is possible in Finland. This is because Finland has a very intensive and large forest industry, where the pulp and paper industry takes about 2/3rd of the total forest industry. Wood products industry only takes 1/3rd for its account.
The pulp and paper industry manufactures paper, pulp, converted paper products and special papers as well as paperboard, packaging and food/hygiene paper products. Majority of the products are exported and this makes Finland the World’s 6th largest producer of paper and paperboard. Some Finnish companies like Huhtamaki and Metza own production facilities all around Europe, China and the Americas. Because of this large paper industry and Finlands more than 50 paper mills, the country is suitable to implicate grass fibre in paper products. The reason behind this is that the technology and the required production capability is already present in Finland. The overall industrial sector setup requires cost competitiveness measures in the form of cost -effective energy, environmental solutions as well as up-to-date operating models. This is done by developing alternatives as well as smart solutions where existing technology can be used, grass fibre is one of those smart solutions.
Grass fibre is best to compare with Moulded fibre because it has the same kind of structure during production and are both a more sustainable way to create new paper and cardboard. These moulded fibres can be turned into pulp and further processed into paper via the normal way. Grass fibre can be turned into the exact same products as moulded fibre as well as wood pulp which makes it easy to use. Furthermore, the environmental impact of recycled paper fibre is higher than that of grass fibre. For example, the source of energy that is used to loosen up the fibres from recycled paper could contribute to a higher emission. The process could take longer than that of grass fibre, which would contribute to more energy being used which increases the environmental impact . Depending on the type of recycled paper, more production steps must be taken, for example removing ink from the material, which would result in a more complex production process. As wood has a stronger structure, with more cellulose, it could be more difficult and take a longer time to allow the fibres to dissolve in water to get the single strands in the end. Making it a somehow better option for finish paper industry as sustainable alternative.
When comparing wood pulp to grass pulp, there are other factors that should be taken into consideration when looking at the footprint. A study in Australia estimated that perennial grass could store 5 tons of carbon per hectare. It has stated that based on data, forests typically are 10 times as effective as grassland at storing carbon per hectare (Australian Government, n.d.). The amount of carbon that trees or grass store, depends on the type of plant as well as the surrounding conditions, making it is difficult to receive clear data on the amount of carbon stored. Nevertheless, it is known that trees store more carbon as their structure is taller and more complex. Therefore, cutting down trees to produce wood pulp for paper, contributes highly to an higher environmental impact. Whereas using already cut grass, which would otherwise decompose, naturally releasing CO2 into the atmosphere, would reduce the environmental impact.
But how is grass fibre exactly implemented in Finland. To start with you need grass, which can be sourced from the roadside, horticultural foliage or farmed grass. Since 65% percent of the farm land is used to grow grass (Luke,2016), the supply can be seen as enough to start producing the grass fibre. The manner of implication of grass fibre into paper products can be done by mingling it with wood pulp or other fibres. Another reason why grass fibre is a very interesting option is because it also creates biogas, which can be used for green electricity as well as gas fuel and heat. this biogas can also be used to for example provide other paper production facilities to become less depending on fossil fuels.
To give an fictional example of how grass fibre can be set up in Finland is by for example to place a production facility of grass fibre in Hämeenlinna. This is also the location where Huhtamaki food group is located. This is strategic because Huhtamaki is the company which is going to use the grass fibre in their products. This creates a short line and flexible solutions for Huhtamaki and makes transport fast and cost efficient. Further the grass is going to be sourced from Turku, Tampere and Helsinki. Therefore, Hämeenlinna is ideally located because its close in the middle of these cities which means its ideally placed to source my grass from. Keeping the production process as well as the sourcing and suppling local, which will increase the resource efficiency. In the production process heat and electricity is created which can be used to for supplying neighbouring communities with green energy and the heat can be used to create a heat district service to supply warm water to the community as well. The only real waste product of the grass fibre plant is terra and sand. These waste products can be used to strengthen up the ground when developing new residential or industrial area’s where the ground is to soft and use stones and sand to strengthen the ground. It can also be used in maintaining asphalt, where small stones are used to apply a thin layer of grind over asphalt for protecting purposes, this happens a lot in Finland so this helps utilizing all the waste and side streams.
As you can read there are various implication for grass fibre, and while the product is further developed and because more efficient new implications will be found which can be in benefit of the Finnish paper and cardboard industry.
J.H.J.J. van Terheijden