UBC Undergraduate Research

An investigation into the wheat straw paper Au, Wei Ren; Chin, Hen Li; Uy, Christopher; Au, Brent

Abstract

The University of British Columbia (UBC) hosts a Social Ecological Economic Development Studies (SEEDS) program that is dedicated to sustainable research and alternatives, including the idea of a new source of paper to be sold on campus. The papers sold at UBC are typically created from wood fibres and 30% consumer recycled content from pulp mixtures. The purpose of this report is to analyze the benefits of wheat straw paper products, primarily in terms of environmental impact, and to investigate the feasibility of wheat paper as a replacement to wood paper. Specifically, this report will evaluate the viability of “wheat sheet” from Royal Printers as a product to be sold at UBC. The report covers the ecological footprint which highlights the efficiency of the production and consumption of wheat paper. In addition, the performance of wheat straw paper will be compared to both 100% wood and recycled mixture content papers throughout the report. In order to meet the demand for wood pulp paper, many trees from forests have to be cut down every year. The paper industry has a large carbon footprint due to the fact that trees are required to maintain carbon levels. In addition, the process of producing a certain amount of paper from a single tree is fairly inefficient considering that only 25% of the tree is used while the rest is discarded. Wheat paper however, utilizes only residue waste wheat straw as a fibre source for creating pulp mixtures. Although the wheat sheet uses eucalyptus fiber to reinforce the pulp mixture, adjusting to this paper would significantly reduce the ecological impact of the paper industry. Additionally, conventional chlorine-based processing methods of wood pulps are well known for causing pollutions and adverse effects on the environment. A better alternative of practicing wheat straw pulping can prevent pollutions from processing paper. The only drawback of wheat straw pulping is the black liquor residue. Regarding the black liquor, a by-product of wheat straw pulping, Vibratory Shear Enhanced Process (VSEP) shows that lignin and hemicelluloses can be extracted from the black liquor and be used as biomass for producing energy, further proving the profitability of integrating wheat straw paper industries. The findings of this report also show that the wheat paper can be recycled much like any other sheet of wood paper. Repeated recycling of the wheat paper proves to have gradual decrease in quality of the wheat straw pulp. However, the degradation rate is lower than wood pulp, indicating the high recycle potential of the wheat pulp. For the market value of the wheat straw paper in Canada, research shows that the wheat sheet has the potential to adapt to the paper industry due to its inexpensive costs compared to wood paper. Another setback for the wheat paper is the shipment of bulk orders from popular non-wood paper industries in China or India. By integrating wheat straw paper companies in Canada, the wheat paper industry would improve both the economy and living standard of Canada as a result of job opportunities, services and other benefits. Hence, wheat straw paper is a suitable alternative to promote sustainability at UBC and around the globe. Disclaimer: “UBC SEEDS provides students with the opportunity to share the findings of their studies, as well as their opinions, conclusions and recommendations with the UBC community. The reader should bear in mind that this is a student project/report and is not an official document of UBC. Furthermore readers should bear in mind that these reports may not reflect the current status of activities at UBC. We urge you to contact the research persons mentioned in a report or the SEEDS Coordinator about the current status of the subject matter of a project/report.”

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