Opportunity for Rural Communities

Market Demand:

Through a detailed survey of 180 pulp and paper buyers, Canopy has identified 1.4 million tons of unmet demand for straw-based paper in North America alone. And we’ve just scratched the surface. This is enough customer demand to:

  • Keep up to 10 mid-sized straw-based pulp/paper mills running full time [1].
  • Generate up to US$1.04 billion per year in gross wholesale revenues [2].

Companies like Sprint, Penguin Random House and Staples are already using straw papers and are keen to support North American supply when it is on the market.

About the Survey:

Canopy’s Straw Pulp and Paper Market Survey is the only study of its kind in North America. It quantifies market demand for papers made with agricultural residues such as wheat straw.  Data has been collected since 2009 in a voluntary survey and last summarized in the fall of 2014.

Top Line Results:

Through interviews with 180 companies to date, we have identified more than 1.4 million short tons of unmet demand for papers made with agricultural residues (uncoated freesheet and copy paper, coated freesheet, coated groundwood, newsprint and other papers.  Note: this does not yet include packaging or molded fiber products.)

The market for straw:

Canopy works with over 750 businesses to develop environmentally sound pulp, paper and forest product purchasing policies along with implementation plans.

These are companies that are working to improve their environmental performance and do not want to risk having their brand associated with products sourced from ancient and endangered forests. They include such heavyweights as publishers Scholastic and Hearst, print giants like TC Transcontinental and global clothing retailer H&M.

Investment is already underway for some North American straw pulp and paper production [3]. The projects currently in development, when combined, will not produce enough pulp and paper to be able to meet the growing demand.

The field is still wide open, with tremendous opportunity for new ventures.

What’s in it for Farmers?

Agricultural pulp mills require a consistent supply of straw or stalk that is suitable for pulping.  That means that farmers in the catchment area can generate additional revenue from residual straw available after animal bedding and soil regeneration requirements are met.

Suitable fiber types:

Straw/Stalk Residues

On-Purpose Crops

Wheat straw


Seed flax straw and Flax bast

Whole Hemp stalks and Hemp bast

Rye seed grass straw

Bamboo (plantations on degraded land,

not resulting in conversion of forests)

Sorghum straw


Sugarcane bagasse – verified residue


Barley straw



Rice straw

Corn stalks/stover (non GMO)


Fiber basket radius:

50 to 100 miles from the mill site.

Delivered-to-pulp mill price per ton fiber:

Up to US$100/ton (depending on location, fiber quality and other factors).

Canopy’s Neva Murtha with pulp and paper engineer Wade Chute and Greensburg, Kansas, community member.

Community Benefits

New jobs 

A small commercial scale straw pulp mill (50,000 tons/year) will employ 20 to 60 people in production management, administration and accounting (depending upon production technology and co-product business plan) [4].

Additional jobs can be generated in support services such as mechanical, transportation, engineering and other businesses, including employment in hotels, restaurants etc.

Additional tax revenue 

New business generates new tax revenue into municipal coffers.


Depending on how the mill is designed, a range of co-products can be developed using the waste in each system.  A mill can also become a co-generator of power and/or a provider of wastewater treatment for the town.

Innovation + Community Pride

A community can take pride in contributing to environmental solutions by hosting innovative technologies in a new economic sector.

Pulp made from wheat and flax straw has half the ecological footprint of pulp made from forests in the Prairie Provinces or US Mid-West [5]. Half!

In addition to a 50% lower ecological footprint, paper made from agricultural residues helps to stabilize our climate by diversifying paper fiber inputs which helps relieve logging pressures on virgin forests which are massive carbon storehouses.

Click here to look at the summary of a Life Cycle Assessment of Alternative Fibers that tissue products giant Kimberly-Clark produced.

Marketing Advantage

A March 2014 year-over-year analysis showed an average annual sales increase of 2% for products with sustainability claims on the packaging and 5% for products that promoted sustainability actions through marketing programs. A review of 14 other brands without sustainability claims or marketing shows a sales rise of only 1%.


1. Canopy projections based on a mill with 50,000 tons annual output

2. Based on US$800/tonne (averaged global NBSK price 2014)

3. Columbia Pulp, Aloterra

4. Engineering estimates suggest 1 employee for every 1,000 tons of output, not including jobs associated with by-product sales.

5. Kissinger, et al, 2007