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Spinning straw into paper

Minnesota State Roundup

January 1, 2001

Spinning straw into paper

The future of U.S. papermaking may rest on a bed of straw.

The University of Minnesota has completed tests on wheat and barley straw as an alternative to wood pulp in papermaking. Using a blend of 30 percent bleached wheat and barley fiber and 70 percent wood fiber, researchers produced high-quality photocopy paper on a pilot paper machine at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, which offers a paper science program.

About 10 percent of paper produced worldwide is made with nonwood fibers, usually in countries with limited wood resources, according to a paper chemist. Wood pulp alternatives may be the future in the United States where the paper industry is undergoing restructuring. In addition, restricted timber sales in national forests and new legislation regarding roadless areas are cutting into timber harvests. Those issues and environmental lawsuits delaying some sales have pushed up wood prices by as much as 30 percent over the past 10 years.

Kathy Cobb