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Are Next Generation Fibers The Future of Sustainable Paper?

Are Next Generation Fibers The Future of Sustainable Paper?

Nov 9th 2021

EcoEnclose is excited to launch NextGen Wheat Straw Packaging Paper

Kraft Wrapping Paper Is the ONLY Wrapping Paper You Need for the Holidays |  Architectural Digest

While this packaging paper looks very similar to the rest of the packaging paper rolls we offer, it has something special in it! This packaging paper is made with 20% wheat straw waste and 80% post-industrial, recycled paper.

NextGen Packaging Paper represents EcoEnclose’s first step in the exciting world of Next Generation Fibers, natural fibers produced out of agricultural waste instead of trees.

What are Next Generation Fibers?

Earlier this year, EcoEnclose signed a procurement policy with Canopy Pack4GoodCanopy is an incredible organization “that protects the world’s forests, species, and climate by working hand in hand with companies from around the globe to transform unsustainable supply chains, catalyze innovative Next Generation Solutions, help advance frontline community rights, and conserve vital forest ecosystems all over the world.”

By signing onto this procurement policy, we strengthened our existing commitment to paper made with recycled content and began a new exploration into the world of next gen fibers.

For over 100 years the R&D and financing for pulp and paper drove all innovation in the industry towards cutting down more forests (source). Our recent work with Canopy has opened our eyes to the fact that because the world relies on trees for paper and textiles, we are collectively threatening the world’s forests, which protect biodiversity and serve as critical carbon sinks. Therefore, there is an immense need to diversify the fiber basket of inputs that goes into the world’s pulp and paper supply. A healthy mix of fibers for paper would ideally include recycled content, agricultural waste (that would often otherwise be burned), and certified sustainable trees that do not come from ancient or endangered forests, or any other controlled or controversial sources. According to Canopy, when it comes to natural fibers, companies should seek out the following (in order of sustainability priority):

  • Post consumer waste (processed chlorine free)
  • Post industrial waste (processed chlorine free)
  • Next gen fibers (virgin paper made with agricultural waste, ideally from agricultural products that were produced responsibly)
  • FSC certified, wood that is not pulling from ancient and endangered forests, paper with no controlled wood content or controversial sourcing
  • [Avoid] Non certified trees, wood that is not pulling from ancient and endangered forests, paper with no controlled wood content or controversial sourcing
  • [Avoid] Non certified trees, no transparency into supply chain. May come from intact, endangered, or high conservation forests.

Check out Canopy's Paper Steps for more detail.

EPN_PaperSteps

Examples of promising next gen fibers include hemp, wheat straw, flax straw and even fallen leaves - all of which allow any main agricultural crops to be used for food, leaving only the waste (much of which would be burned) to be used for pulp. Life cycle analyses show that using agricultural residues can result in a 75% to 90% reduction of the carbon, water and biodiversity footprint compared to products made from wood fiber.

Paper360 (PPIS) - March/April 2019 - North America's First Tree-Free Pulp  Mill

Today, only about 3% of the world’s paper production uses next generation fibers. 

Long-term, EcoEnclose's vision is that next gen fibers become the most popular input for paper used in the printing and packaging industry, anytime the strength characteristics of virgin paper are needed.

Why NextGen Packaging Paper?

EcoEnclose is on a mission to build a future of true packaging circularity - one in which all packaging is reused and then recycled back into itself, and that any virgin inputs that are needed for packaging are produced in net neutral (or, ideally, regenerative) ways.

To support this vision, we have invested heavily in maximizing recycled content levels across our packaging solutions, with a particular focus on post-consumer waste. This strategy serves as a pull, incentivizing players across the recycling and packaging supply chain (from recyclers to remanufacturers to brands) to improve their ability and capacity to handle recycled content - which is key to making progress towards materials circularity.

Even as we’ve committed to recycled content, we are 100% in support of the broader industry need to embrace next gen fibers. Ideally, we would like to see the right next gen fibers (i.e. ones that are grown responsibly) replace virgin tree-based paper options, including our Glassine Bags and GreenWrap.

However, the current technology and worldwide capacity to pulp different agricultural waste inputs is still nascent. We recognize that brands, manufacturers and converters need to make conscious investments in these fibers in order to fuel the costly infrastructure investments that need to be made in next fiber pulping operations. Additionally, some of the most readily available ag waste products today (such as wheat straw) have relatively short fiber lengths, making them difficult substitutes where the long fiber strength characteristics of virgin tree paper are needed. Other agricultural crops (such as hemp) have very long fibers; however, these crops are not yet abundant in the US.

Despite these current challenges in the next gen fiber landscape, EcoEnclose felt compelled to offer NextGen Packaging Paper as an option alongside our 100% recycled packaging paper solutions

This represents our first baby step in helping (1) create a market for next generation paper fibers, (2) educate our customer base about the important need for a diversified paper fiber basket that includes nex gen fibers, and (3) signal to next gen pulpers, mills and converters that their investments in this space are well worth the effort.

What’s Next for Tree-Free Paper Alternatives?

We hope our 20% Wheat Straw Packaging Paper marks the beginning of a myriad of EcoEnclose packaging solutions in which responsibly grown next gen fibers are used anytime recycled content will not suffice and the strength of virgin paper is needed. With that in mind, check out our NextGen Packaging Paper and let us know what you think about this new offering!

If you are interested in pursuing next gen fiber solutions for other packaging, get in touch. This will help us collaborate with the right brands as we test fiber innovations and bring new solutions to market.

Finally, we encourage you to check out Canopy Pack4Good. Learn more about how they work with brands and manufacturers, and if it makes sense for you company to get involved.