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Grass, not wood: Coca-Cola opts for the most environmentally friendly paper in the world

Coca-Cola was one of the first companies to use grass paper cardboard, initially for practical bottle carriers for Vio organic lemonade. Now, all advertising material and labels for the organic tea-based drink Honest Tea are also made from grass paper.

Although grass paper isn’t actually edible, it’s currently on everyone’s lips. Whether as punnets for fruit or vegetables, boxes for eggs or cereals and even as lipstick packaging, grass paper packaging can now be found on practically every supermarket shelf.

And this is a good thing. The ecological added value is obvious – paper is currently made using wood or recycled paper. To make wood into paper, complex processing is required. This consumes high amounts of energy and water and results in CO2 emissions. Chemicals are also used to remove the polymer lignin, which acts as a glue in the cell walls of wood and enables trees to grow in height. Uwe D’Agnone, the inventor of grass paper, has the advantages of grass fibre on the tip of his tongue – backed by facts and figures. ‘During its production, 97% of energy requirements are saved,’ he explains. ‘For every pallet of pulp, there are 6,000 litres less water that flow through production. What’s more, CO2 emissions are 75% lower than with production using wood.’ Such figures have also impressed Coca-Cola.

The grass paper for Honest Tea products is made by the Meldorf paper mill in Tornesch. The traditional company got to grips with the new raw material at an early stage and is one of the select paper mills that already produce grass paper using their own formulas to supply renowned brands like Coca-Cola. Meldorf is proud of this. Whenever grass paper is produced, the air is filled with the heady scent of hay and freshly cut grass.

More than a dozen paper mills in Germany currently produce grass paper. But for D’Agnone, this is just the beginning. Test productions in Austria, Switzerland, Italy, France and Ireland are already on the cards. Through his company Creapaper, he is faced with floods of requests from paper mills and brand manufacturers – even today, demand is almost outstripping production of the raw material. The first industrial production plant is due to be commissioned in spring 2019. This will improve the availability of the pellets for grass paper production, albeit probably only temporarily. But with such ‘luxury problems’ as D’Agnone likes to call them, one can only smile. ‘Grass paper is something truly fantastic. It makes me extremely happy to see that after so many years of development and especially resistance from the paper sector, the concept is finally pushing through on the market and finding its way to the people!’

We’ll definitely be hearing – and seeing – a lot more of grass paper in the future.


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