Before talking about the innovation process of Grass fibre I would like to explain what Grass fibre actually is.
Grass fibre is actually a processed Fibre where only the dry matter stays intact. These fibres can be used for paper, cardboard, insulation and particle board products. Grass fibre can be used for practically all the same purposes as wood pulp. Grass Fibre is basically a lignocellulosic fibre that can be sourced from natural grass, roadside grass and horticulture foliage. To create the fibre, grass is cleaned than cut. After cutting bacteria is used to penetrate into the fibre to open the cell walls. This allows sugars to flow out. Remaining content is than pressed and flushed out to flush away the remaining content of the cells, such as amino acids. After pressing only dry matter grass stays over and can be used to produce cardboard.
Over the years it became possible to turn more and more natural resources into a Fibre that can be used, to make pulp useable for paper and cardboard manufacturing. With this in mind a company in the Netherlands, Invented a process to turn roadside grass, natural grass and horticultural foliage into grass fibres. This company called new foss started in 2012, and started developing the bio-based installation required to make the grass fibre. In 2014 the first fully operational bio-plant was developed and build. New foss has doesn’t face any competition at this moment because the production process as well as the machinery required are patented by the company. They are going to sell the machinery under licence, rather than producing their own product.
The idea for the concept has been triggered by the high demand that china has for recycled paper to create new products. As this is way too expensive to transport from Europe to the rest of the world. Because of this, New foss was looking for an alternative. They found out that grass is the ideal substitute because the production process is relativity easy and all the waste streams are covered for. The amino acids and sugars are taken out of the fibre which can be reused for energy purposes such as biogas. Because of this, grass fibres are low in emissions and especially, when the input material is roadside grass, it can definitely add extra value to an otherwise product that is only left to decomposed. So by using this waste grass by turning it into a value product, the tree intensive pulp paper industry can look into fast renewable solutions to lower their greenhouse gasses and footprint.
To conclude it there for all started over 6 years ago by an idea to look into a more sustainable option for the growing recycled paper demand from china. Than 4 years ago the first grass fibre trail plant started production, a year ago a new plant is build close to the headquarters from new foss. During these years they started to work together with Huhtamaki, by supplying grass fibre to create egg boxes which contains 50% out off grass fibre and 50 % out off recycled paper.
On the long term New foss is not producing the grass fibres, but only sell the licenses of the production function. Furthermore, they would like to keep improving their production to become more efficient with waste stream management and energy use, and to develop other alternative applications to recycle other lignocellulosic biomass types, e.g. Sugar beets and rice straw.
J.H.J.J. van Terheijden