Treeless paper alternatives

November 29th, 2007
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If you’re not keen on tree-based paper, or even recycled paper made from trees, there’s plenty of alternatives starting to appear on the market – but you’ll still need to hunt around.

Approximately one out of every three trees harvested today ends up as pulp for paper products and unfortunately trees from old growth forests are still often felled to meet the demand.

According to Rainforest Web, the United States has under five percent of the world’s population, yet consumes more than thirty percent of the world’s paper.

It’s encouraging that more plantation timber is being used for paper products and more paper is being recycled; but perhaps the way of the future is totally tree-free paper and blends – from other forms of waste and made from plants that grow incredibly fast, thrive in poor conditions and allow for a more resource friendly and less energy intensive method of paper production.

A while back I wrote about kenaf as a treeless paper solution. Kenaf is a type of hibiscus, originating in Africa; but there are many other alternative too. While tree-free paper isn’t yet a mainstream product generally available from stationers; here’s a few options you may want to search around for:

Bagasse – the pulp that remains after extracting juice from sugar cane.

Mango – Mango paper is usually from Thailand. It is made from kozo (paper mulberry) and mango leaf.

Banana – Made from waste bark of banana tree which is cut after the bananas have been ripened.

Cotton – Can be made from old cotton rags, clothing and general cotton waste

Jute – you’ve probably seen jute twine; usually brownish in color and quite coarse. It can also be made into  high-quality writing and specialty papers

Elephant poop – yes, you read it right, poop – but it’s bacteria free and odor free :).

Hemp – Did you know that Benjamin Franklin was the owner of a mill that made hemp paper and that Thomas Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence on paper made of hemp? Hemp has somewhat of a undeserved general reputation; but industrial hemp is an incredibly useful plant.

Straw – as straw fibers are very similar to wood fibers, it makes an excellent paper. Oddly enough, the USA was once the largest producer of straw for paper making; but the industry no longer exists.

Tamarind –  contain petals and leaves from tamarind tree

Coconut – the husks of coconuts were usually discarded, but the fiber is now being used to create paper with a thick texture

A great resource for learning more about tree-free and hand made paper is The Earth Paper – I noticed that the site even had information on paper made from abandoned birds nests!

As mentioned, finding tree-free paper outside of countries like India and China isn’t the easiest task. You’ll need to hunt around online for supplies in the USA, Canada, Australia and Europe – but something we can all do is ask our stationers about stocking treeless paper; as where there’s demand, supply will follow.

What other treeless paper alternatives have you come across? Please post them below!


Michael Bloch
Green Living Tips.com
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