According to the Global Forest Resource Assessment, roughly 80,000 to 160,000 trees are cut down each day. This makes the need for sustainable alternatives to tree-based paper necessary to save our planet.
Deforestation and climate change are two of the top reasons that are moving the world towards the usage of sustainable alternatives to tree-based papers.
Some of the best alternatives are –
1. Banana Paper
Made from waste the bark of a banana tree that is cut after the bananas have been ripened. It can be used to make tape, wrapping paper, memo cards, notebooks, and sketchbooks.
According to a recent study, renewable banana paper is set to gain more applications with a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of over 5%.
Banana paper can easily be sourced from banana plantations and processed at remote industrial plants.
On average, the banana pulp contains 50% cellulose, 17% lignin, and 4% ash.
A disadvantage of banana paper is that there is currently a lack of regulation and standardization as the segment is still relatively new. Another drawback of banana paper is its high level of stiffness compared to cotton and other fibers.
When looking for an eco-friendly alternative to traditional tree-based paper, a strong contender for the best alternative is eucalyptus paper. It’s common around the world and grows freely creating a large forest cover.
Eucalyptus paper is unique because the wood from eucalyptus trees is short fibred, which means they have a higher number of fibers making them denser. It allows the paper to have good thickness and form.
Eucalyptus paper is an excellent sustainable alternative to tree-based paper because its easy to produce and the raw materials are plentiful, meaning that there’s relatively no damage to the environment at the cost of its production
The drawback of eucalyptus is that their bark is more flammable than other alternatives, allowing a high chance for forest fires. Also, birds rarely nest on eucalyptus trees. Not only this, but they require a lot of water and deplete the underground water-level from which they grow.
3. Rice Straw
Rice straw can be made into a great alternative for traditional paper obtained from trees. It is composed of approximately 35% cellulose, 18% hemicellulose, and 15% lignin. Rice is commonly grown all around the world as a staple crop, meaning that sourcing this alternative is not difficult.
During the harvest of rice, the stalks of the rice plant are often considered a waste product and are commonly discarded. It’s very low-cost to source the rice straw raw material because it’s a waste byproduct of the harvest process. Rice straw can also be made to make excellent glossy paper.
The result is a high-quality, durable, and sustainable paper product which is a great alternative to tree-based papers. However, the disadvantage of rice straw paper is that the Abaca pulp which is an essential ingredient is both hard to source and expensive.
4. Sugarcane Pulp
Sugarcane pulp is a great alternative to tree-based paper. It has a high cellulose content of about 40–50% with 25–35% is hemicellulose and around 20% lignin. Sugarcane can be grown nearly all around the world, making it available and viable as an alternative.
It produces high quality, paper-like consistency when the pulp is extracted and processed. It is also allergen free and biodegradable within an average of 180 days.
The disadvantage of sugarcane pulp is that it has high ash and moisture content., typically between the range of 40%-50%.
When it comes to alternative sources of paper that are eco-friendly and renewable, hemp is an ideal choice, especially thanks to the high cellulose level in hemp fibers (around 85%).
Hemp is the strongest and most easily obtainable alternative to tree-based paper. The fact that it can be grown almost anywhere in the world is a testament to its availability.
When it comes to cost-effectiveness and strength, there is no other material on earth that comes close to hemp.
To produce hemp fibers, they are soaked until they begin to soften and become easier to form. They then undergo processing to be formed into high-quality paper.
According to statistics, if the current rate of deforestation continues unchecked, we will all rainforests on Earth within 100 years. This makes the need for sustainable alternatives to tree-based papers extremely necessary to save our planet.
Sugarcane, rice straw, banana trees, eucalyptus, and hemp are ideal choices for alternative sources of fiber. Be the change today by switching to sources that are more readily available and do not endanger the earth.
What sources of fibers can you think of to move the planet away from unsuitable tree-based paper?