On behalf of the Home Grown Cereals Authority, BioRegional MiniMills (UK) is developing technology to enable straw to be turned into pulp for use as part of the paper production process.
The UK paper industry currently purchases wood pulp which is subject to significant price fluctuations. In 1997, the environmental charity BioRegional carried out a market study which demonstrated a high level of support in the paper industry for the idea of using wheat straw in the manufacturing of paper.
Wheat straw is said to be an excellent material for paper making. In the past it has been used to make paper both in the UK and around the world. However, straw is bulky and uneconomical to transport over large distances. So BioRegional has developed the technology behind Mini Mills, a modular design which pulps the straw and recovers the waste from the process. Its small, efficient units are said to save energy, water and chemicals, while reducing the capital costs and processing time. The company is now planning to build a pilot plant at a paper mill site.
Funding from HGCA will go towards the development of a premium quality straw pulp product, and research into the mill energy recovery systems, including the removal of harmful silica which can result in the build-up of glassy deposits.
BioRegional estimates that straw could replace up to 20 per cent of the imported high grade wood pulp currently used by the paper industry, resulting in a market for 360,000t of straw pulp, requiring 900,000t of straw worth some £27M to UK growers.
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