Wood is not the only base material that can be used in the production of paper, paperboard and cardboard. An impressive compilation demonstrating just how disparate those possible materials can be has been in the collection of Deutsches Technikmuseum (German Museum of Technology) since 2000. It comprises fibrous materials and historical watermark papers from the archive of the Federal Institute for Material Testing (BAM) in Berlin and includes at least 72 different product groups.
Box "E" from the collection is earmarked for fiber material made from different grasses. The samples vary in the year of manufacture and the proportion and type of grass material used. The gamut ranges from maize, pile reed, bamboo and straw to esparto or halfa grass. Esparto or alfa paper was mainly produced by Great Britain in the 19th century. The grasses used as raw material for these papers mostly came from southern Europe and North Africa.
There has lately been a revived interest in paper containing grass fiber. Grasses are locally available and are fast growing. Sometimes they even arise as a by-product or waste product, such as maize stover. In addition, grasses contain significantly less of the plant strengthening material lignin than is found in wood. High levels of lignin are an obstacle to paper manufacturing and reduce the quality of the product.
The proportionate use of alternative raw materials for the industrial production of paper, paperboard and cardboard is becoming increasingly important, particularly for packaging. The growing awareness of sustainability among customers is definitely a determinant factor.
Various grass paper samples from the fibrous material collection of the Federal Institute for Material Testing, before 2000