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Environmentally Friendly Alternatives for Producing Paper

written by: Rose Kivi•edited by: Niki Fears•updated: 2/28/2010

Environmentally friendly paper production saves trees, reduces paper in landfills, and minimizes or eliminates the use of harmful chemicals. This article discusses recycled paper and the production of tree free paper.

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    Recycled Paper

    Recycled paper saves new trees from being cut down and reduces paper landfill waste. The ideal recycled paper is made from one-hundred percent recycled post consumer paper and is processed chlorine free. Post consumer paper is paper that was once used in homes and offices. Recycled paper that is processed chlorine free does not use chlorine as a bleaching agent but uses an alternative and more environmentally friendly process to brighten the paper. Hydrogen peroxide is one environmentally friendly paper bleaching agent. Recycled paper that is processed chlorine free is usually not totally chlorine free because the post consumer recycled paper used often contains chlorine. Processed chlorine free recycled paper may contain small amounts of chlorine from recycled fibers used in production, but does not contaminate the environment with additional chlorine.

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    Tree Free Paper

    Paper that is made using fibers from sources other than trees, decreases deforestation. Kenaf, hemp, and sugar cane, are three plants that have proven to make excellent paper.

    The kenaf plant is the USDA's top choice for an environmentally friendly paper. Kenaf is related to the hibiscus plan. It is a sturdy plant that can grow well in warm climates. Researchers are working on developing strains of kenaf that can grow in cold climates as well. Kenaf is resistant to pests and can be grown without the use of pesticides and is hardy enough to be grown without the use of fertilizers. Kenaf is a quick growing plant that reaches twelve to eighteen feet in approximately 150 days. The fibers of the kenaf plant are soft and require only a minimum amount of processing to make paper. Hydrogen peroxide easily breaks down and bleaches the fibers of kenaf. Hydrogen peroxide breaks down into water and does not pollute the environment.

    Hemp makes a paper that is strong and long lasting. The Declaration of Independence was written on hemp paper and still survives today. Because hemp is resistant to pests, it can easily be grown organically without the use of harmful pesticides. Fiber obtained from the stalks of the hemp plant contain long cellulose fibers that require less processing than tree fiber does to make paper. The color of pulp derived from hemp makes a creamy colored paper that requires less bleaching than paper made from trees. Hemp is a hardy plant and can grow in most climates, even in poor soil, and reaches full maturity at 70 to 110 days from planting.

    Waste from the production of cane sugar can be used to make paper. After the cane juice is squeezed out of the sugar cane plant, the fibrous waste product called bagasse is left, which can be used to make paper. Manufacturing one ton of cane sugar, creates two tons of bagasse. An environmentally friendly and non polluting enzyme called laccase which is derived from a fungus, is used to break down and bleach the bagasse to make it suitable for paper production. Sugar cane plants reach full maturity at twelve to fifteen months from planting.

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    Environmentally Friendly Ink

    Conventional paper often uses ink derived from non-renewable petroleum. An environmentally friendlier alternative, is vegetable based ink derived from soy or other plant materials.