From tomato fibres to cardboard

‘We’ll always innovate’

Five questions for Nathalie Donkers, KAM-manager Renewi

The process still has to be optimised, but tests show promising results: adding tomato fibres to the production of cardboard, makes the cardboard stronger. BioBoost helps by establishing new contacts between entrepreneurs and science. Five questions for Nathalie Donkers, KAM-manager Renewi.

Why are you a BioBoost partner?
“Waste is a resource. That’s the philosophy of Renewi, the company created by merging Van Gansewinkel and Shanks. Both have been top players in the waste processing and recycling industries for years. By joining BioBoost, we hope to bring our business to the next level. We don’t use the word ‘waste’ anymore. Everything is a resource.”

What project is this about exactly?
“We use tomato and pepper plant waste with the production of cardboard. In October and November, growers tidy up their greenhouses. Old plants out, new plants in. The greens are shredded and delivered to us. We sieve these shreds to retrieve the fibres, which we deliver to the paper factory. They then use that, together with old paper, as a resource for new cardboard. From the new cardboard, we can make containers for the new tomato harvest. With this idea, we won a European sustainability price in 2016.”

What is required to make this project succeed?
“We’re still dealing with a particular problem. Between the greens we get from the growers, there’s always rope residues. Growers use this rope to streamline the growth of their plants. As we sieve, we already get rid of a lot of those rope residues, but parts of rope still get stuck in our installations. We’re looking for a solution for this problem. Examples of this could be an installation that can separate the rope from the greens better, or developing a biodegradable rope.”

What have you achieved already?
“Via BioBoost, we’re in contact with two research partners, Ilvo and Inagro. They could possibly help us build a new installation. We’re also talking to producers to find an alternative for traditional rope, such as biodegradable rope. That does mean we have to open up dialogues with growers, because they would need to use that rope in their cultivation. We know it’s possible, all that remains is the final step.”

What does BioBoost mean to Renewi?
“By combining government, science and entrepreneurs within and outside of the Netherlands, we can come into contact with different companies. They can help us and we can help them. This will allow us to become the biggest player in Europe when it comes to stone wool processing. Stone wool is used a lot in horticulture, as a sub street to allow plants to grow. We share that knowledge with other partners. For us, development is a way of life. We’ll always continue to innovate and our ambition is to become the largest supplier of resources in Europe.”

Nathalie Donkers, KAM-manager Renewi