Although indigenous to the sub-tropic, Miscanthus Giganteus, or elephant grass, as it is more commonly known, has put down roots in Europe as well.
In the Netherlands, it has been planted around the country’s major airport, Schiphol, to keep the geese away. A start-up company is now a making bioplastic called Vibers from it.
According to Jan-Govert van Gilst elephant grass contains ‘the same energy value as coal and lots of cellulose fibers’, making it suitable as an alternative resource to produce various materials. An idealist who is set on eliminating fossil-based plastic packaging, he saw potential in the crop and founded his company, NNRGY, in Honselersdijk, the Netherlands.
Elephant grass is a fast-growing crop, which absorbs four times as much CO2 as a forest. It requires neither the use of pesticides or fertilizer to thrive and is not invasive.
The company grows the grass needed for production locally on unused land not suitable for food crops owned by the plastics processor with whom the company collaborates to manufacture its products.
NNRGY developed a biodegradable, compostable bioplastic called Vibers that is made from elephant grass and residual product from the potato processing industry produced by Dutch bioplastics producer Rodenburg, from which a range of kitchenware products, are produced.
In 2017, a new film was successfully developed for the packaging industry, and the three subsidiaries NNRGY Biopolymers, Vibers Consumer Goods and Vibers Packaging were established. The new film is thermoformable on existing machinery and at low temperatures, which saves energy. It can be processed as biodegradable waste. The seedling logo has been applied for, however, the testing process is still ongoing.