Cardboard fibres from vegetable stems

At the end of the season, the stems of peppers, eggplants, cucumber and tomatoes are thrown out by the grower – often without realising that the plant material could perfectly serve as raw material for numerous products. The Centre of Expertise for Plant Compounds, together with project partners Wageningen University, the Knowledge Centre Paper & Cardboard and BioBase Westland, are exploring possible uses for these stems. We focus in particular on how to shape the process from harvesting the resources to making them suitable for use.

At first glance, the paper and cardboard industry seems very suitable for providing a second life to stems. Instead of discharging the plant material to be composted, which costs several millions, it can be used to produce boxes and other packaging material. These can in turn be used by growers to stack their tomatoes, cucumber and other vegetables. This creates a new business model and at the same time contributes to a more sustainable world.

The challenge now is to translate this idea into practice. Alternative resources for the paper industry have to comply with certain conditions before they can be used. This involves logistic and legal requirements with regard to alternative materials. With a view to the economic feasibility several aspects are important, including the water retaining capacity of new raw materials.