How to Make Paper Without Trees

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Today, there are lots of materials available for making paper besides trees. Take a look at the ingredients the next time you buy paper products like loose leaf, notepads and stationery. You might find some of the materials listed below.

Post-Consumer Waste

Unsurprisingly, a lot of newly produced paper today comes from recycled materials. Buying paper created from post-consumer waste decreases the amount of trees needed to make paper.

This process also conserves energy and prevents paper from being sent to the landfill. However, most post-consumer waste paper contains other ingredients. Therefore, don’t be tricked into thinking that it is made of 100 percent recycled material.

Agri-Pulp

Agri-pulp is the synthesis of post-consumer waste and agricultural waste. When combined, these two create high-quality paper.

North America creates over 200 million tons of straw every year as a result of growing corn, wheat, rice, and other crops. Rather than burning leftover straw or leaving it to compost, agri-pulp offers an innovative new way to make paper without trees.

Hemp

Hemp creates its own pesticide and grows very quickly. It actually creates two times as much fiber in an acre than pine. Until the late 19th century, manufacturers produced the majority of the world’s paper with hemp .

Hemp paper does not crack, turn yellow or deteriorate like other tree paper, nor does it require any bleaching. While a regular tree takes between 20 and 80 years to mature, hemp stalks require merely 4 months. This makes it an ideal material for paper. While hemp used to be banned in the United States, products made from hemp are now available from many US-based manufacturers.

Cotton

Many manufacturers looking for a more sustainable option for paper choose cotton grown in an organic manner. It grows in many different colors including white, green and brown.

Organic cotton farming uses up to 71% less water than conventional cotton farming. Also, organic options use no pesticides or fertilizers.

Kenaf

Kenaf is related to the cotton plant. It requires about 20 percent less energy to make pulp compared to pine. Yet kenaf does not create as much plant matter in its growing season as hemp. While kenaf can produce high-quality paper, it can’t product enough plant material to meet the world’s demand for paper.

Bamboo

Bamboo today enables the production of everything from loose leaf paper to paper towels. An incredibly fast-growing grass, bamboo generates 5 times the amount of fiber of the world’s fastest-growing commercial trees.

While bamboo has a fast growth rate and does not require debarking, its sporadic flowering prevents a regular supply. Also, manufacturers experience difficulty chipping bamboo due to the hollow stems and pulping due its dense nodes.

Paper is Changing as Time Progresses

Trees are clearly no longer necessary to create paper. New technologies make it possible to produce paper from many sources.

Most of these sources result in a smaller impact on the environment than chopping down trees. As a result, the paper you use on a daily basis for printing, taking notes and making lists may already be derived from something other than paper.


CK Vaughn originally published this post in November of 2018. It has been subsequently edited, enhanced, and republished to include new information.