Agricultural processes around the world use a lot of resources and can also create a lot of waste. In China, 600 million tons of straw biomass are left over from farming each year after the harvesting of crops, with 90 percent of it burned to clear the fields for the next round of planting. That burning adds to air pollution and emits greenhouse gases.
YFY Corp., a Taiwanese company, has come up with a technology that can take all of that typically unused straw and turn it into paper. It's estimated that the demand for paper and paperboard products will grow to 490 million tons by 2020. This process could keep hundreds of millions of tons of straw from being burned each year, while also creating paper products to keep up with that demand without the need for logging.
According to the press release, "Through bio-pulping – a proprietary enzymatic process that eliminates the use of harsh chemicals when converting straw to straw pulp – YFY Corp. plans to take advantage of the more than 600 million tons of agricultural straw biomass available in China. That represents a potential supply of 345 million tons of biopulps, equal to the amount of wood pulp produced globally every year."
The technology is called NPulp and has taken YFY 10 years to perfect in the lab. The straw pulp can be made into paper with the same quality as recycled wood-pulp-based paper and also into corrugated cardboard and packaging materials. Beyond just the environmental benefits, the process also creates a new economic opportunity for Chinese farmers who can sell their leftover straw for a profit.
The process will start being used in China's farms next month along with an economic stability program and the company is debuting their technology at the Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference in Washington, D.C this year.