The GP focuses on researching the potential value of the invasive plant Japanese knotweed (Falopia japonica) as an alternative source of cellulose fibres.
Japanese knotweed is a plant included into the category of 100 most invasive plants in the world. It came to Europe from Asia as an ornamental plant in 19th century. The plant spreads as a weed mostly on waste ground, less on cultivated land. The fast spreading of this plant reduces the biodiversity, has a potential to destroy the infrastructure and in the winter time, due to the die-off of the upper parts of the plants, causes soil erosion of the river banks. Currently Ljubljana Municipality, together with Snaga Public Waste Management company, is encouraging inhabitants to drop the Knotweed in the collection centres, the waste is then sent to the incineration plant. The initial project, called “The Knotweed games” was carried out in 2015 in the form of 3 workshops focusing on the biology of the plant, appropriate removal and creative usage of the plant (testing interesting food recipes, preparing homeopathic remedy, paper making and creating natural dye from the rhizomes of the plant) as well as community building and group work. In the second phase, a collaboration with the Paper and Pulp Institute was developed to verify if the knotweed was suitable for producing paper-based products. Lastly, a semi-industrial production was experimented: 1520 kg of Japanese Knotweed allowed to produce 415 kg of paper. Alongside this, two products have emerged, namely notebooks and paper bags, designed by the Re-generacija collective.
The GP was supported through non-repayable financing for research & development by the Museum of Architecture and Design (Biennial of Design BIO50).
Evidence of success
Project indicates that unwanted (invasive) plants can represent a source of value generation for the local community. These species could be, in classical linear system, considered as a waste without potential value while with an innovative approach can render them potentially valuable resource that can generate added value for the society (production of high quality artisan paper products with higher added value, community building through organised collection of problematic plant, culinary).
Potential for learning or transfer
This GP has a potential for implementation. On the conceptual level it shows that potentially problematic invasive plants can be removed from the environment and via intelligent production processes they can be given positive value. The urban harvesting of potentially invasive species which could be used then be turned in a product with higher values can mobilise individuals and help in building more cohesive communities.
On the practical level, many European communities are facing the problem of Japanese Knotweed (or other invasive plants) and could face this problem by addressing plants as a source of cellulose. The developed sustainable technologies can be effectively applied to the craft or semi industry production facilities for paper production.
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