Making Paper from Waste Wheat Straw
Some talk the talk and walk the walk. The June issue of Canadian Geographic is their annual 'environmental' issue, and it will be completely printed on paper made from wheat straw. They are the first magazine in North America to do that.
They call the resulting paper the "wheat sheet." It took more than 10 years to scientists at the Alberta Research Council to develop it. It's not completely straw, though: 20% wheat straw and 40% recycled paper. But with that mix, it rivals "any glossy paper made primarily from virgin timber" and "looks just the same as the other stuff", so we suspect that for non-glossy paper, a higher ratio of wheat straw could be used, saving even more trees.
Waste Wheat Straw Paper Still Hard to Find
But as is often the case with early adopters, there's a bump in the road:
Canada is the world's largest producer of commercial pulp, but the industry has shown little interest in wheat straw, which is used primarily in China. In fact, the wheat straw pulp used to create the wheat sheet was imported from China because there is no facility in North America able to process wheat into pulp.
But if this helps increase awareness and interest in the stuff, it will have been worth it. You have to start somewhere...
How Much Waste Wheat Straw Do We Have?
Nicole Rycroft, executive director of Markets Initiative, said that just for Canada, the 15 million tonnes of cereal waste that agriculture creates annually could be used to make 7.5 million tonnes of pulp, equivalent to about 80% of all the newsprint used in Canada in a given year. That would certainly make a big difference on how much of the boreal forest gets chopped down (especially if it's for newspapers that have a shelf life of only one day).
It would take an investment of about $50-million to $200-million to upgrade an existing Canadian facility to be able to use wheat straw. But once that investment is made, it takes a lot less energy to process wheat straw, so some savings could be made on that front.
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More Waste Wheat Straw Paper
::Glossy magazine wakes up on 'wheat sheets'
::canadian Geographic June Issue