Will Canadian project take tree-free paper mainstream?
My Clean Break column in today’s Toronto Star is about a consortium of companies, lead by Praire Pulp and Paper Inc. out of Winnipeg, that’s trying to perfect a process for producing high-grade photocopy and printer paper out of agricultural residue. Backed by money from Sustainable Development Technology Canada, the group believes it can produce tree-free paper from wheat straw and flax straw at high enough quality and volume that it could compete against tree-based products. If the group can pull it off, it would reduce stress on forests, give farmers a new revenue stream, and reduce the amount of crop waste that might otherwise get burned (not nice from an environmental perspective).
There are many challenges to overcome and it may be many years before the process proves viable, but SDTC remains hopeful. Meanwhile, Alfred Wong of Vancouver-based Arbokem Inc. has his own process for producing tree-free paper and is involved in many projects in Europe. After 10 years of trial and error, Wong is certain he’s got the right approach, and he’s even trademarked the name “Agripulp” in anticipation of his success. If either Wong or Prairie Pulp can get it right, this would be a “game-changer” in the pulp and paper industry, says SDTC’s Rick Whittaker.