Chlorine Free Paper Issues


Are there enough tree free fibers to produce adequate amounts of paper?

On Estimating Supply and Overall Quantity

My understanding is that there is plenty of ag fiber to utilize. - Jeff Lindenthal, President, Green Field Paper Company

Using the vast amounts of agricultural residues available in the world today would be a significant step in the right direction toward wood replacement in pulp and paper. - Living Tree Paper Company

LISTENING STUDY: Note that no updates have been made to availability estimates since 1998. It is recommended to note the date on the following estimates and use them as relative comparisons, rather than actual quantity estimates.

Table 9. Estimated Global Availability of Nonwood Fibers
Raw material /Bone dry million metric tons World Availability Estimate 1 (Atchison 1995) World Availability Estimate 2 (McCloskey 1995) World Availability (EU Innovation Project) USA availability (Atchison 1998/paperloop Nonwood Raw Materials)
Wheat straw 600,000 739,700 709,000 76,000
Rice straw 360,000 465,200 673,000 3,000
Barley straw 195,000 218,500 - 7,000
Oat straw 55,000 50,800 - 5,000
Rye straw 40,000 41,900 - 400
Grass seed straw 3,000 - - 1,100
Flax (oilseed) 2,000 - - 500
Corn stalks 750,000 727,300 - 150,000
Sorghum stalks 252,000 104,700 - 28,000
Sugarcane bagasse 102,200 100,200 - 4,400
Cotton stalks 68,000 35,900 - 4,600
Leaf fibers (Sisal, Hennequen, Maguay) 500 - - -
Reeds 30,000 - - -
Bamboo 30,000 - - -
Cotton staple 18,300 18,000 - 3,500
Stem fibers (Kenaf, Jute, etc.) 13,700 - - -
Papyrus 5,000 - - -
Cotton linters 2,700 2,300 - 500
Esparto grass 500 - - -
Sabai grass 200 - - -
Hemp fibers 200 - - -
Abaca 80 - - -
Cotton mote - 900 - -
Total 2,528,380 2,505,400 - 284,000

In China, some 200 million tons of non-wood fibers are available; globally there are 100 million tons of dry banana stalk available for papermaking; the tonnage of cereal straw ag-residue in Canada and the US is also staggeringly high, as well as sugar cane in Latin America.
      Compare this raw material availability to the total global output for pulp/paper, which is in the range of 300 million tons per year.
      On simply a per tonnage basis, yes, there are adequate non-woods for papermaking. On a practical basis, it would take an enormous manufacturing shift to incorporate even a 30% blend of non-woods into the global papermaking production stream. - Jeanne Trombly, Fiber Futures

Table 10. Estimated Wheat and Rice Straw Availability
(EU Innovation Project)
Continent Country Wheat Straw residues (in million metric tons) Rice Straw residues (in million metric tons)
Europe France 47.8 -
Russia 32.3 -
Germany 23.8 -
Asia China 132 231.5
India 79.2 146.6
Turkey 25.2 55.5
Indonesia - -
Africa Egypt 7.4 6.6
America USA 83.3 9.8
Canada 29.3 -
Argentina 12.1 -
Oceania Australia 26.1 1.6
World 709.2 673.3
FF source: EU Innovation Project

Original Source: Mantanis, G. (1999). Worldwide availability of agriwaste. MARLIT Ltd. Greece (unpublished data).

Second FF source: (paperloop Nonwood Raw Materials) Original Source: Atchison, j.e. progress in the global use of nonwood fibers nd prospects for their greater use in the future. Inpaper international, Apr-Jun 1998, pg. 21

Third FF source: Paper Task Force 1996 Nonwood fiber Sources (cites his 1994 estimates)

There are lots of residues out there, but how much is enough? With current demand there are too many residues. If IP wanted to switch today from tree fiber to entirely ag residue, there probably isn't enough. - Peter Hopkins, Environmental Papers Consultant for Crane Paper Company, Gargan Communications

If just 5% of US corn and soy acreage was planted to kenaf, prices for those crops would stabilize, with no net loss to the farmer, since they would be paid a competitive price for the kenaf, without any subsidy. The resulting 7.5 million acres of kenaf could supply more than 1/3 of all U.S. virgin pulp needs. - Tom Rymsza, President, Vision Paper

No, consider the effect on the landscape if all wood fiber was replaced with hemp or kenaf. To grow enough alternative fiber to make up the difference, you would quickly absorb all the remaining available agricultural land in the United States and at least some of what is currently forested. On the other hand, the U.S. forest industry regenerates every acre that it harvests and is adding new forests on land that was once in agriculture. - International Paper

We could figure that out by taking the current acreage of trees and figuring out their yield per acre to get the total yield. Then we could find out how much kenaf is made and see if it is enough. - Russell Clark, Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Program, US EPA

Table 11. Inventory of U.S. Straw
(Fiber Source Potential Quantity, dry tons)
USDA, Ag Stat***
Flax (seed)
Grass (seed)

* Institute for Local Self-Reliance 1997
** Atchison 1994
*** USDA, Agricultural Statistics 1993 and USDA, Economic Research Service 1997

Three different estimations can be suggested [see Table 9 above]. ranging from 177, 147 and 125 million tons. If we take the smallest number of 125 million tons, a modest 30% yield will give us 38 million tons which is slightly less than 50% of paper and paperboard consumption in 2000 in the US. - James S. Han, Research Chemist, USDA Forest Service Forest Products Laboratory

Demand will control supply. If the demand exists, the volume of fiber produced can be increased in one year. Kenaf produces 3-5 times more fiber per acre per year than trees. Bales of kenaf fiber can be held on hand in the field for years until it is needed, allowing any excess demand to be satisfied quickly. - Tom Rymsza, President, Vision Paper

All of the wheat straw in the U.S. would produce about 25 million tonnes of hardwood substitute pulp assuming a 33% yield to account for storage, preparation, pulping and bleaching losses. - Hurter 1998

There may be out-of-date data in the white paper. I expect the supply has changed. - Richard Denison, Ph.D., Senior Scientist, Environmental Defense

Supply for ag residues is a regional issue: A mill in Maine might want to use rice straw. It doesn't matter if there are millions of tons in California, the cost of transportation might mean that there is effectively no supply for that mill in Maine. I don't see any new pulping mills on the horizon, although that certainly could change. What you already have in terms of processing facilities is what you have to work with unless the demand scenario changes. - Peter Hopkins, Environmental Papers Consultant for Crane Paper Company, Gargan Communications

On Estimating Practical Availability for Pulping

In theory yes [there is enough tree free fibers to produce adequate amounts of paper], in practicality no. The fiber supply should be diversified factoring in many sources (trees, herbaceous, annuals, residues, waste and recycled pulp). Computer paper is apparently the high profile target; however there are thousands of other papers in which significant headway is moving towards nonwoods (i.e.: diapers, female products, bandages, advanced filters, currency paper, etc.).
      If we add up how much crop residue is grown around the world - of course, there is enough residue. However, it is hard to know when to stop counting - in theory, we could pulp tree clippings from town, but the land management, collection, and transportation is complicated. Pound for pound, hauling trees is generally far more efficient than hauling baled hay. In practicality, all the existing residue cannot and should not be harvested. - Peter A. Nelson, President, AgroTech Communications, Inc.

There certainly is plenty of wheat straw for pulp production in the US and Canada. One problem is that most wheat production areas are remote from existing pulp mills and from good water sources for the pulping operation, especially in Canada.
      As you well know, corn stalks have been proposed as a fiber source and there is a huge amount of them available. As to the dedicated crop fibers, there has to be a build up period where the agricultural production is developed. This can take several to many years. There is also a chicken and egg problem. No mill - why grow it? No material growing - why build a mill? The acreage required to supply an economically-sized mill is considerable and has to be part of the overall plan for a new facility.
      Just think of all the effort than has gone into developing the collection, processing and use of recycled fibers. A similar effort and capital investment would have to go into systems for agricultural fiber use. - Michael Jackson, Consultant, Tolovana Park, OR

Allocation of sufficient arable land to supply a mega-pulp mill with on-purpose agri-fibers or agri-cropping residues is problematic. A different industry development model is needed. See, for example, my presentations, "The Agri-Pulp Alternative," "Economic and environmental impact of using wheat straw for the co-production of paper and energy in Canada," and "Economic Opportunity in the Use of Wheat Straw in North Dakota for the Co-Manufacture of Paper and Energy."
      The societal priority in the use of a large amount of agricultural land is an issue, at a given target scale of operation. See, for example, my presentations, "Technical and Economic Obstacles Affecting the Early Commercialization of Kenaf Pulp Manufacture" and "Socio-Economic and Technical Issues of On-Purpose Fiber Cropping and Food Cropping." - Al Wong, Founder, Arbokem

The only current hold-back is the supply [of Arundo donax]. That's why we're rushing to get plantations in line. This gives farmers a faster return and makes lazy farmers because they don't have to replant every year like with kenaf, sugar cane, and other crops. Currently there is a plantation in Ventura Valley, Hillsburg in Northern CA, a small plantation in Alabama. Beginning in Sept. there will be a small plantation in AZ and one in Lancaster, CA. Arundo donax grows approximately within the 40's (longitude) - in the colder areas: from southern Delaware up to Oregon, and along the South. - Ernett Altherimer, Founder and Chairman, Nile Fiber

We heard that complaint more for post-consumer waste - there is not enough demand or infrastructure yet for tree-free papers to exceed demand. - Tyson Miller, Program Director, Recycled Products Purchasing Cooperative

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