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Cups produced out of Grasspaper - the most sustainable, eco-friendly and fastest regrowing fibermaterial in the world!

Photo of Michael Kroheck
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Idea Title

Grasspaper-Cups - save up to 75% CO2-emission!

Idea Summary

We use grass instead of wood (fresh fiber) to produce cups - we save 6.000 liters of water and 1.400 kWh energy each ton and we need no chemistry at all! Over all we save 75% CO2-emission!

Company / Organization Name (if applicable)

Creapaper GmbH

Website (if applicable)

Please include a visual (can be either 2D or 3D) representation/prototype of your concept. (required)

Creapaper’s innovation is to introduce a new, sustainable and cost-efficient raw material for the paper industry as third pillar besides wood pulp and recycled fibre: Grass Fiber!

After cutting and sun drying the grass, the hay is gathered at Creapaper’s regional production site. Low growing plants contain only a small amount of lignin, and can be processed mechanically, without any chemicals, with only a fraction of process water and energy demand. The Grass Fibers are then compacted into pellets or square bales. In this form, the product can be transported and handled easily, and the paper mill can directly use the compacted Grass Fibers in its conventional paper production process. Therefore, Grass Fiber is mixed with virgin wood fibres according to the recipe for the desired paper type.  Currently, Grass Paper is available with a Grass Fiber share up to 50% and hence significantly reduces the amount of expensive wood pulp and the dependency on its import.

In contrary to trees, grass regrows quickly after cutting and can be harvested from regional grasslands, which are not applicable for intensive agriculture. Instead of importing logs and transporting it over huge distances, with all the environmental and climate issues, a locally available and sustainable resource is used. No farmland is lost, no monocultures are deployed and the demand for grass can be met by grasslands within a 100km radius around the paper mill.

The CO2 emissions are reduced by up to 75% by this highly efficient and clean process and by the short transportation.

In case of food packaging, recycled fiber as raw material is a problem with current and upcoming regulations on mineral oil migration from printing ink into the foodstuff. Until now, paper made of 100% virgin wood fiber or additional barrier foils were the only options. Both are expensive and have a negative impact on the environment and hence on the environmental brand image.

The key benefits of Grass Fiber compared to wood pulp and recycled fibers for paper production are:

  • Cost-efficient (350€ per tonne Grass Fiber instead of currently more than 1,000 € per tonne wood pulp)
  • Resource efficient processing 
  • Energy demand of 134 kWh per tonne Grass Fiber is 6 times lower than for wood pulp and 1.5 times lower than for recycled fiber
  • 2 litres industrial water per tonne Grass Fiber (reduction by factor 3,000 to wood pulp) 
  • Environmental friendly / Positive environmental brand image
  • CO2 emissions are reduced by 75% compared to wood pulp and by 26% for recycled fiber
  • Soil acidification potential is reduced by factor 18 for wood pulp (factor 5 for recycled fiber)
  • No chemicals are necessary for processing, only mechanical processing
  • Deforestation and transformation of forests into monocultures is reduced

This solution addresses which of the following:

  • All of the Above

How is your concept recoverable?

The Cup is made with up to 50% Grassfiber and 50% fresh fiber or recycled paper. Due to the sealed surface on the inside (hydrophobic streak and sealing wax) the cup is ready for recycling after usage - it´s one component (no longer a mixture of paper and plastic)! And we can produce straws, lids, sleeves and liners with the same process and product.

How have you incorporated additional sustainability attributes (beyond recoverability) into your solution?

The grass used for grasspaper is from ecological compensation areas. So it is not used e.g. for animal food. Especially in rural areas where is few work but lots of grass we can create employment, hope and future for people working with us to harvest grass and produce the pellets (e.g. in Eastern Europe, India or Africa), so we can increase the social situation of the locals.

What regions do you plan to address with your solution (and how will you accomplish this)?

We started in Germany. Today grasspaper-products are available in Austria, Switzerland and Italy. From here we are able to grow into the rest of the world. This is easy to handle, because we realize decentralized productions with hubs around 100 km of the paper mills that produce grasspaper. Actually we started with the food market REWE in Germany to produce 15 Mio. coffee cups with grasspaper.

Describe your target market. Who will benefit from your product?

250 Billion Cups a year is quite a lot! Every Coffee- or Drink-to-go-lover can benefit from our grasspaper-Cups. Worldwide. No more worries or remorse after enjoying a drink to go, because the cup is 100% recycable - easy, cheap, sustainable. If we can convince companies like Starbucks, McDonalds and Coca-Cola to use the new raw material grass for cup-production (instead of wood fiber), we can start tomorrow to save huge amounts of water, energy and million of trees! Together we can start a worldwide social-media campaign to tell the people in the world about this wonderful new resource for cup-production!

What is the current stage of development of your idea?

  • Piloting
  • Full-scale roll-out

What are the biggest challenges you are facing today? What are existing gaps in your solution?

Our challenges are: 1. Demand of the global brands for ecological packaging solutions (like the Grasspaper-Cup) 2. Contracts with paper mills (to produce grasspaper) 3. Access to the ressource grass If 1. is available, 2. will order grass as raw fiber for paper production and 3. will provide us with grass (and we are able to pay fair prices for the farmers worldwide). Things have come full circle!

Mentorship Needs (please select up to 3)

  • Branding / Marketing and Storytelling
  • Growth and Scaling

Tell us about yourself and your team. What is your background and experience?

Uwe D´Agnone, educated intalgio printer, is committed to sustainable packaging since 1990. The whole team of 30 employees has experience and passion for paper and packaging production.

In what city are you located?

Hennef, Germany (near Cologne/Düsseldorf)

In what country are you located?


What is your legal / organizational structure? (if applicable)


Please describe how becoming a Top Idea will support the growth of your concept.

We need publicity (B2C) and access to global brands like Starbucks, McDonalds and Coca-Cola (b.t.w.: we already work together with Coca-Cola in Germany with the brands VIO and HonesT) to spread the idea of our ecofriendly grasspaper all over the world!

How did you hear about the Challenge?

  • OpenIDEO social media


• Uwe D´Agnone: CEO, founder, developer of grasspaper, 25 years experience in sustainable paper and packaging solutions • Michael Kroheck: Head of Business Development, shareholder, 25 years experience as entrepreneur • Sebastian Leidig: CFO, Master of Laws (LL.M.); Bachelor of Science in Business Admin. 10 years experience in international consulting • Michael Siekiera: Director Sales & Marketing; Executive Master in Sales and Marketing; 20 years Management of international paper mills

Material / Recoverability Plan

Our ressource is grass, to be more specific: it is dried grass, so hay. It´s a 100% natural ressource. After drying, cleaning, cutting, milling, straining and pelletizing we transport the grassfiber pellets to the paper mill. The rolls with the grasspaper will be transported to the converter who produces e.g. the cups or straws. We do not use any plastic or foil for grasspaper cups and straws. Grasspaper is certified as recyclable together with conventional paper and is fully biodegradable. Grasspaper was studied and classified as harmless on skin irritation and appropriate for allergists. Hence Grasspaper is also suitable for sanitary or cosmetic paper products. The mechanical properties of Grass Fibres and thereof made Grass Paper and Paperboard are comparable to conventional paper products produced with wood pulp and recycled fibres. According to the desired properties, the share of grass and wood fibres can be adapted to create paper/paperboard with most suitable mechanical properties and at the same time reduced costs. Our production process is designed for decentralised units with a production capacity of 25.000 tons each and it is easily scalable to every demand. For producing Grassfiber, grass as sustainable raw material is harvested from non-intensive, regional grassland. The generated valency will promote the creation of compensation areas and fallow lands ensuring a natural habitat for many animals and biodiversity in Europe. On the contrary global deforestation and the creation of pulp wood plantations/monocultures is reduced, to finally save rain and primeval forest, and support climate protection. The significantly shortened transportation distances, and the substantially reduced demand for energy and water for Grass Fibre production will further reduce carbon emissions. As grass is mechanically processed without chemicals, the pollution of air and water is practically reduced to zero compared to wood pulp production or paper recycling.


Using grass as raw material supports economic development of rural, often underdeveloped regions all over the world by commercialising their local grass resources, especially from ecological compensation areas, fallow lands and grasslands. No hay for animal food is used. We do not use hay or grass from parks or near roads or highways (because they are contaminated with fecal, fuel or rubber). We do not use any plastic or foil for our cups and straws. Grasspaper is certificated to be 100% recycable as well as compostable. Our studies confirm that there are sufficient amounts of grass available within a radius of 100 miles around every paper mill in the world (to produce paper you need huge amounts of water – if there´s water, there´s grass). We treat the grass in a 100% mechanical way (cleaning with air, cutting, milling, straining, pelletize – we need no chemistry and we save more than 90% water and energy compared to fresh fiber. Every hectare of meadow put out 5 tons of grassfiber per year in Europe an upt to 25 tons in South America or Aisa. So the available natural ressources of grass in the world are more than 1,2 billion tons per year Talking about our ecosystem: cutting grass is like cutting hair. It grows and grows again and after 8 weeks you can cut it again. A tree needs up to 20 years to be large enough to use it for paper production. And the carbon dioxide stays in the roots of the grass – if the tree is cutted the carbon dioxide escapes to the air. You need 2,2 tons of wood to produce 1 ton of fresh fiber. If you use grass, you need 1,2 tons of gras to get 1 ton of grassfiber. Grass Fibre usage significantly reduces the demand for wood import. So if we have a client e.g. in the US we are looking for available grass 100 miles around a paper mill. We care for continuous raw material to produce hay pellets, bring them to the paper mill where they can produce grasspaper without any investment or new technical equipment.

Final Prototype

The prototype: Cup and straw both with 40% Grass, 60% fresh fiber - 100% recyclable or biodegradable - target is to raise the share of grass up to 50% in the near future. Thickness of the cup can be matched with the requirements of our customers. The outside is fully printable - so it can be lighter/more white on the outside (but you still see the texture of the grass).


In Germany we have the highest international standards for packaging in the world. Grasspaper is fully matching these standards. We have the following certificates: • LCA Life Cycle Assessment • DERMATEST Research Institute for reliable results – Certificate for Dermatological Test for Graspellets • ISEGA: 36. Recommendation Paper and Board for Food Contact • ISEGA: Certificate of compliance for food packaging • PTS: Certificate of Recycability • PTS: Certificate of Biodegradability and Compostability • TÜV: Human Patch Test Water barrier: The water barrier of Grasspaper-Cups is made out of a hydrophobial streak and a sealing wax. At the moment it lasts for about 3 hours and we are able to improve that following the US industry standards. Heat sealing capability: The double walled grasspaper-material is similar to the currently used cups from e.g. Starbucks or McDonalds. So the heat sealing ist he same.

Ecosystem Placement

The regulations for food packaging are becoming stricter concerning mineral oil migration from printing ink remains of recycled paper into the food product. The current solutions are to either use paper made only from wood pulp or add barrier foils. Grass as raw material for paper and packaging production has the potential to become the third pillar of the global paper industry (beside fresh wood fibre and recycled paper). Wether you like to wrap a burger or pack fries, if it is a Coke or a Coffee – even the straws can be made out of grasspaper. With 75% less CO2-emission while producing grasspaper this is a tremendous contribution to our ecosystem - we can save large amounts of energy and water (more than 90%) and we need no chemistry at all! Grasspaper is the perfect ressource – the most sustainable paper in the world! And not to forget: think about the possibilities to substitute plastic packaging with grasspaper products...

Rollout Plan

Actually we produce for the food discounter REWE (second biggest in EUROPE) 15 millions cups for a test in Germany (going to market in March 2019). These cups are different tot he ones we present in the NextGenCup Challenge. The REWE cups still use plastic on the inside. But the outside is with 30% Grasspaper. Even with this solution we save 30% CO2-emission. But we still have a double-component product which can be not recycled. So we concentrate on the finalizing of our grasspaper cup without any plastic or foil like presented here. Our Rollout plan is based on the idea, that we are going into the US-market. As you can see in the R&D period we are able to finish the product until October 2019. Meanwhile we can talk about the parameter oft he MVP Rollout. During the MVP Rollout we would produce the cups in Germany and ship them tot he US. Sales can start in May 2020. After that we can talk about an upscale and several production units in the US, to produce pellets with local grass and produce grasspaper and cups in the US (starting April 2021). We can upscale pretty fast to about 15 billion cups per year in 2021. Further upscaling must be discussed. Our business model in Germany is to sell the pellets to the paper mills. They sell the grasspaper to the converters. The converters produce cups etc. and sell them to the large brands. For the US we have different options: 1) same like Germany – we sell pellets to the paper mills. Brand owners place their order at the converter. 2) Full service (from pellets to finished cup – we are the one stop shop. 3) we give the paper mill, the converter or the brand owners the licence to produce grasspaper and help them to upscale the business (licence model is possible if a minimum amount of produced grasspaper is guaranteed – the technology for grasspaper is protected with international IP). Btw: talking about businessmodel – Grass is about 50% cheaper than comparable raw materials made out of fresh fiber!

Business Model Canvas

Creapaper buys hay and grass from farmers, processes it into Grass Fibre and supplies it to papermakers. This includes also the know-how and recipe for the Grass Paper production and the permission to use Creapaper’s Grass Paper IP. The pilot production line with an annual capacity of 25.000 tons pellets is located in Düren, Germany. This production line is a blueprint and can be installed everywhere in the world.

Prize Funding

We need to finish the development of the grasspaper-cups within the next 3-4 months - especially testing the water barrier for long time periods of more than 2 hours. The sealing wax on the inner side of the surface needs to be improved as well. Also we like to make test to raise the share of grass from today 40% up to 50%.

NextGen Accelerator

  • Yes, I am interested in participating in the NextGen Cup Accelerator

Optional Team Video

It started back in 2012 with the idea to make paper production more sustainable. Today we offer the most ecological raw material for paper and board production in the world. We are proud and greatful tob e part or the worldwide effort to reduce CO2-emission! I have a dream: That someday, when I am sitting with my grandchildren around the bonfire to read out the history book and it is written: „Once upon a time, when they made paper out of wood...“

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