Fibres can be used to disintegrate tablets, bind together the ingredients in a formulation and coat substrates. The company J. RETTENMAIER & SÖHNE GmbH+Co.KG has been offering plant fibres, pulp and cellulose for a broad range of applications since 1878. The company now also uses the natural fibres for the fabrication of bioplastics in an effort to contribute to sustainability.
J. RETTENMAIER & SÖHNE GmbH+Co.KG (JRS) is a family business with a long tradition in the production and application of plant fibres. Established 133 years ago as a grain and saw mill, the business was expanded in 1956 into the production of cellulose powder, and the company has now become an international group with a special focus on the research, development and processing of high-quality organic fibres from plant materials. 17 manufacturing facilities in Germany, Finland, the USA, India, Mexico and Great Britain supply the international market with a broad range of fibres, including cellulose, crop, fruit and wood fibres that are used for the production of cat litter for example, and which are increasingly used in the automobile industry and in plastics production.
JRS’ goal is to use natural fibres for the production of plastics. Two products known as ARBOCEL (based on cellulose) and LIGNOCEL (based on wood) are already widely used to produce thermo- and duroplasts, and the company’s goal is to also be able to use natural plant fibres for the production of sustainable products. Harald Schlosser, Head of Innovation and Business Development, plans to tap new markets with the production of bioplastics from natural fibres. “We want to show our clients that we also focus on sustainable products,” said Schlosser. ARBOCEL and LIGNOCEL are used to produce plastics car parts that are lighter than those produced with other materials, and these products therefore contribute to reducing fuel consumption. “I believe that car parts can also be produced from polylactic acid that is combined with 20% cellulose,” said Schlosser. The company’s philosophy centres on the application of plant fibres for the production of bioplastics. With its slogan “fibres from nature”, JRS also shows that it is committed to the responsible use of natural resources. Many of JRS’ products can be returned to the biological cycle or processed further. “We would like to focus on new developments in close cooperation with our clients. This enables us to take into account the different requirement profiles of clients from different industrial sectors in the most optimal way,” said Schlosser explaining that such a way of working is made possible through the company’s own laboratories and manufacturing facilities. The company is already working on some sustainable projects involving biopolymers. Schlosser believes that the Biopolymers/Biomaterials cluster offers JRS interesting possibilities for expanding its commitment in this area.
The company’s fibres are already used in numerous areas of the chemical industry. ARBOCEL and LIGNOCEL fibres are used as reinforcers and fillers in coverings, insulation mats, artificial leather covers and many other products that require a special stability and surface structure. In addition, the company’s hydroxypropyl methyl cellulose (HPMC) is used as suspension agent for the production of PVC (polyvinyl chloride). HPMC stabilises the suspension by preventing individual PVC particles to agglomerate. Cellulose fibres are used for the production of plaster, tile adhesive, seam and filler materials.
With its production of fibres for application in numerous areas, JRS clearly shows that it is well placed to introduce the use of fibres into a broad range of industries. The product known as VITACEL is a plant fibre product with a total dietary fibre content of up to 98 per cent. Different VITACEL concentrates are available and are made from potato fibre, wheat, oat and apple fibres and used to enrich food with fibres. Dietary food products are enriched with fibres for their ability to prolong the feeling of satiety and to slow down the increase of the blood glucose level.
JRS PHARMA, one of JRS’ business units, manufactures products for the pharmaceutical industry. “We offer our pharmaceutical clients a product cocktail which is ready to be combined with the companies’ pharmaceutical ingredient,” said Schlosser explaining that mircocrystalline cellulose has a very high drug binding capacity. In addition, cellulose is easy to handle and easy to compress during the tablet manufacturing process. So-called disintegrating materials are added to solid dosage forms to make them break apart and release the pharmaceutical ingredient in an aqueous environment. JRS offers sodium starch glycolates for such disintegration purposes. In order to be able to offer a constantly high product quality, JRS manufactures according to GMP standards as well as to food-grade QA certifications. The regular inspection of the quality of the plant fibres enables the company to maintain high standards for all its products.