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When we think of using natural resources for products and applications, we often imagine a commonly used material: wood. But what if you could save money, go easy on the environment, and increase the value and yield of wood as a raw material for a broad variety of both "old-fashioned" and new products? There are a lot materials that might serve as our main fiber resources in the future. Think of plants like grasses, straw, banana peels, and eucalyptus, all of which are fast-growing and natural raw materials from which cellulose can be obtained thanks to new technologies.
Or how about producing items like clothes, compounds, insulating and composite materials, papers, and packaging using former waste products like hops extract residues, pomace, tomato stalks, or nutshells? That's not far-fetched: For example, the Netherlands alone produces a wet mass of 70,000 tons of tomato stalks each year. These stalks can already be introduced, inter alia, into solid board packaging. Using new materials like biogenic waste materials and by-products from other industries doesn't just pay off financially and environmentally, it can also deliver new properties like greater stability or a special feel for paper, tissue, and board products.
And the future holds even more possibilities – from highly profitable biorefineries to bio-based chemicals and consumer products.
As one of the best known and commonly used materials, wood is the epitome of a renewable raw material.
With its fast growth and extreme robustness, grass could be the raw material of the future. It can be harvested locally several times per year and has unique strength properties.
Eucalyptus is an excellent alternative to other raw materials: It is fast growing and there's no watering or use of pesticides necessary.
As food industry waste products tomatoe stalks/ nut shells qualify as outstanding alternatives to other materials that have to be grown specifically for industrial use.
Natural and plant-based ingredients have been used for skin care for centuries. The market for natural cosmetics is growing. And when it comes to cosmetics in general, an increasing number of consumers are concerned about synthetic and chemical ingredients. That’s why the chemical industry is looking for new natural, eco-friendly raw materials with characteristics like binding, viscosity-increasing, texturizing, and peeling. Among the promising organic and sustainable ingredients for creams, shampoos, facial masks, toothpastes, deodorants, exfoliating shower gels, and many more cosmetic applications are substances extracted from eucalyptus as well as cellulose fibers from bamboo, grains, and other plants.
Environmental issues and the limited availability of fossil fuel make it necessary to look for alternatives. Biofuels are made from biomass and are therefore renewable. They're also considered to be CO2 neutral, because they emit CO2 in the same amount that the living plants removed from the atmosphere via photosynthesis. Bioethanol is one the world's leading solutions. To defuse the ethical conflict of “food or fuel” – in terms of competition for acreage – experts are trying to figure out how to use only the parts of plants for the production of fuel that aren't edible, and how to fraction cellulose fibers. Using waste products from pulp and paper production like black liquor and fiber mud will also contribute to the future of biofuel manufacturing.
Whether it's due to new ecological construction concepts, regulations, and certifications, health issues, or the environmental impact of product manufacture, use, and disposal – the construction industry is increasingly relying on environmentally-friendly filling and insulating materials made of pulp or fibers. The insulation performance of natural insulating materials is equivalent to that of mineral and synthetic insulating materials. But the natural insulating materials are less risky for the installer than, for example, fiberglass, and it's harmless and easy to handle for disposal. And there's more: Specialists are already working on papers that can be used to reinforce house components that are subject to especially high loads.
Do you have any questions about new fiber applications, markets, and business opportunities? Would you like to learn more about our fiber solutions for the future? Our experts will gladly answer your questions. What's more: We'd like to invite you to join us in developing new projects, initiatives, and concepts for the fiber industry.
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