An enterprising grandfather’s passion for innovation

You can make sustainable paper and cardboard from agricultural waste. Peter van Rosmalen conceived this idea: 'As a father and grandfather, I felt I should do something really meaningful for the next generations.' With his company PaperWise the 58-year-old innovator won the The Next Entrepreneur 2015 award for the most innovative and promising start-up in The Netherlands. This award is organised by the Dutch organisation for small and medium-sized enterprises (MKB-Nederland) and Rabobank.

If I don’t change, who will? This thought led 58-year-old Peter van Rosmalen to make a radical change two years ago. He traded his job at a packaging wholesaler to become an independent entrepreneur. And one thing was certain: he wanted a sustainable enterprise. He succeeded in fulfilling this aim because his company PaperWise gives agricultural waste a second life as raw material for high-quality paper and cardboard. His vision: There’s no such thing as waste in nature, because anything left over can be used in new applications. PaperWise products are made from leaves and stalks that remain after the harvest. The ecological footprint is 47 percent smaller than that of FSC paper and wood fibres and 29 percent smaller than that of recycled paper. PaperWise’s products are sold in Europe both through distributors and to direct users, such as supermarkets.

Perfect opportunity

PaperWise paper and cardboard are produced at factories in India and Colombia. These production facilities are also very important to the local communities. PaperWise invests in local education and healthcare and the manufacturing process focuses on safety, zero waste and maintaining ecology. 'We take our chain responsibility very seriously and ensure that the production occurs at the very least in accordance with international CSR guidelines', says Peter van Rosmalen.
He explains his motives for starting PaperWise: 'As a father and grandfather, I felt I should do something really meaningful for the next generations. I noticed that a large amount of agricultural waste is available every year, but that it is used to create only very minimal value. I saw this as a perfect opportunity to produce paper and cardboard sustainably in developing countries, which would in turn benefit the local communities.'

Being disruptive

The jury of The Next Entrepreneur commended Van Rosmalen for letting sustainability and entrepreneurship go hand in hand. 'He puts sustainability and corporate social responsibility first', says Leendert-Jan Visser, Director of MKB-Nederland. 'His product is sustainable, he makes it easy for his customers to buy sustainable paper and cardboard and he also invests in employment, education and healthcare in developing countries.' Paul Dirken, Director of Dutch Business Banking at Rabobank, says the company also has every opportunity to further scale up its activities in the short term, both in the Netherlands and in other countries. The jury also praised the fact that Van Rosmalen gave up the security of a good job in his late fifties to pursue a personal mission. 'He proves that not only young entrepreneurs can be disruptive.'