Products from aquatic plants

Circular Economy

Biorefinery concept utilizing rapidly growing macrophytes in urban areas

Project Facts


Project Volume
100.000-500.000 EUR

Applied Financing Solutions
Grants, In-Kind Contributions, Other

Project Dates
Start: 2018

The Story

Between 2000 and 4000 tons of waterplant biomass must be harvested annually in the freshwater systems surrounding the urban area of Vienna. Not only to preserve it as recreational space for the local population but also to ensure ecological stability. The growth rate of such waterplants has been steadily rising in many parts of the world. This biomass is removed and in most cases just discarded (composted), although it bears high potential for further valorization, especially with regard to cellulosic materials, e.g. paper, packaging materials, or in additive manufacturing.

In this project, scientiests have developed a process for the cascadic utilization of this waterplant biomass waste into materials. In contrast to wood, which is the common feedstock of cellulosic resources, waterplants can be processed in a simpler and more sustainable pulping process. The products are especially suitable as fully renewable and compostable single-use dishes. As replacement of fossil-based counterparts and as an alternative to wood-based products, these products additionally help to reduce deforestation and transportation costs from centralized pulping factories. Our aim is to further expand this concept to utilize also other valuable plant fractions via a urban circular biorefinery concept and to provide a locally produced resource for materials application.

Success Factor | Hero Moment

The steadily increasing growth rate of waterplants in region of Vienna has so far been considered only as disturbance, but it further increases at an alarming rate, calling for a sustainable long-term solution. Composting the harvested plants, as has been done so far, gets rid of the biomass, but makes no use of it whatsoever. The scientists have analyzed the composition of the waterplants to estimate their potential. The high cellulose content and promising results in the fabrication of paper inspired a team of experts in the field renewable resources to combine forces and establish a process of the production of packaging materials. The successful production of waterplant-based packaging materials and the high public interest of this project, encourages the team to further expand this concept.

University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna, Austria

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Research, Biobased Solution