Global Companies Getting Behind Wheat Straw Paper
Wheat straw is usually burned or landfilled by farmers in North America, however the waste product is gaining popularity as a replacement for tree fiber used in paper production, and multinational companies are taking notice.
The idea of using wheat straw to produce paper began approximately 20 years ago with the creation of the Canadian company, Prairie Paper, located in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The company produces Step Forward Paper as a way of creating a new revenue source for local farmers from the farm waste.
Although it is more common to make paper from wheat straw in India and China, the practice is not yet widespread in North America, but it is lately gaining momentum.
Two years ago Staples began stocking Step Forward Paper, estimating that for every two boxes of Step Forward Paper sold, one tree is saved. In addition, Kimberly-Clark is using wheat straw to produce its GreenHarvest line of product including tissue paper and paper towels, which uses 20% plant fiber instead of tree or wood fiber or recycled paper.
Recently, Sprint has announced that it will substitute wood-sourced paper with Step Forward Paper over the next several months for approximately 2.5 million customer letters and other business correspondence. During the trial, Sprint will be evaluating how well the paper stands up to the high speed equipment and high temperatures encountered during the printing process.
Currently Prairie Paper is manufacturing its wheat straw paper overseas and importing it to North America, however the company says that its long term plan is to construct mills near North American farming regions. Estimates suggest that there is an adequate supply of wheat straw to support production capacity for 13 mid-sized mills.