Canopy's Straw Paper Campaign
Straw paper -- or Second Harvest Paper as we call it at Canopy -- is made from straw leftover after the grain harvest and all other uses, such as animal bedding and maintaining soil integrity, are accounted for.
This leftover straw is known as “agricultural residue”. It is typically disposed of by burning, but it happens to be ideal for making paper.
North America's vast agricultural heartlands are untapped sources of this paper fibre. Every year millions of tons of agricultural residue, like wheat and flax straw, go unused while our forests are logged to make more paper.
The 20 million acres of wheat grown in Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan results in about 13-20 million tons of wheat straw. These provinces also grow an additional 2 million acres of flax. The top wheat-growing states in the U.S. produce more than 40-million acres of wheat.
That’s enough straw to meet much of North America’s book, magazine, catalogue and copy paper needs.
It’s also enough to keep up to 830 million trees standing every year.
A whole new North American resource sector
Canopy has already identified 1 million tonnes of demand for Second Harvest Paper in North America alone. And we’ve just scratched the surface.
This is enough customer demand to:
- Keep up to five pulp/paper mills running full time;
- Generate up to $1.15 billion per year;
- And enough straw available to protect up to 830 million trees per year!
Read more about Canopy's pioneering work on the Canadian Geographic magazine trial in 2008 — a North American first! Also our work with Margaret Atwood to print the first straw paper book in North America in 2011.
Second Harvest Paper is a guaranteed way to reduce the stress of paper production on our old growth and endangered forests.
What's more, some agricultural residue pulps take less time to cook than wood pulps. That means Second Harvest Paper uses less energy, less water and fewer chemicals.
Pulp made from wheat and flax straw has half the ecological footprint of pulp made from forests in the Prairie Provinces. Half!
In addition to a 50% lower carbon footprint, Second Harvest Paper helps to stabilize our climate by protecting the massive carbon sinks our forests represent.
Trees build themselves by drawing carbon out of the atmosphere. When we cut them down we release the carbon they store, and prevent them from storing any more. By protecting forests we begin to protect ourselves from climate change and its effects.
What the world needs now
To make Second Harvest paper commercially viable in North America, the following needs to happen:
1. Existing pulp and paper mills need to do the R&D and business planning required to start retroftitting existing facilities in appropriate locations;
2. Business entrepreneurs need to build new clean facilities in appropriate fibre sourcing/transportation zones;
3. Governments need to help with investments to the farming community to enable farmers to collect fibre and get it to the farm gate. Governments can also help with financial incentives for capital investments;
4. While we work together to build the infrastructure to pulp Second Harvest fibres, customers need to source imported straw papers in the short term. Paper producers can also import straw pulps as an interim strategy.
5. Major paper purchasers can complete the Canopy market survey. This will help mills interested in developing Second Harvest Paper understand how much market support there is.
If government and industry follow Canopy’s lead our books, magazines, toilet paper, bank statements, and… you name it, will all come from our farmers fields instead of our fragile forest ecosystems.
Paper wasn’t always made from forests anyway...
In fact, they’re a relatively recent addition to the paper making process in North America and around the world.
In North America, paper was made almost exclusively from recycled linen and rags until 1850.
A powerful turn of industrial development laws introduced tax credits and favourable freight rates in the late 1800’s – it was this development that firmly established forests as the primary paper material. These incentives remain to this day and are a big part of our reliance on endangered forests for our paper needs.
During World War II and right up until 1960, there were 25 mills in the U.S. that produced paper from wheat straw. Yet internationally North America lags behind many countries already producing paper from straw.
More than 20% of the paper produced in India and China comes from wheat and rice straw, and sugarcane bagasse (the fibrous matter leftover after sugarcane stalks are crushed to extract their juice). Globally, 8% of all paper production comes from agricultural residues.
In North America, we still produce all our paper from wood, and the vast majority of it from ancient and endangered forests.
Second Harvest paper is a futuristic solution that will make destroying endangered forests for paper ancient history.
Where can I get straw paper in North America?
Canopy’s Eco-Paper database lists the best of the best eco-paper available in the North American market place. Imported straw and agricultural residue papers are listed here as well.
Can I get straw paper from my printer?
Canopy is helping printers test straw based papers. Those that currently stock these papers are listed here. If your printer is not listed here, ask them to contact us and we’ll help.
Read more about Canopy's Wheat Sheet and the Canadian Geographic trial in 2008 -- another North American first!
 Assumptions – 39-60 million tons of wheat straw available in NA,; 1.5 million of flax straw. This could make 21-32 million tons of uncoated freesheet. Source for trees saved is the Environmental Paper Network Paper Calculator.
 Calculated based on an average January 2011 price of 5 types of paper - newsprint, magazine paper, book paper and copy paper per ton of uncoated freesheet delivered to eastern printers by truck and rail with $50-$70/mt of transportation cost calculated in.
 Welfare For Waste: How Federal Taxpayer Subsidies Waste Resources and Discourage Recycling http://www.consumerchoice.info/pdf/waste.pdf