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Abstract

World demand for paper has increased at an average annual rate of 4.7% over the past 40 years. Although future growth will reduce to 2–3% the existing wood resources may be inadequate to meet this growing demand for paper especially in the Asia-Pacific region and Eastern Europe. In addition, logging is coming under increasing pressure from environmentalists concerned about habitat destruction and other longer-term impacts of forest harvesting. It is, therefore, necessary to consider alternative fiber sources to meet the possible shortfall of wood fiber for papermaking. Suitable nonwood fibers are abundantly available in many countries and are the major source of fiber for papermaking in some developing nations.
Nonwood FibersA Potential Source of Raw Material
in Papermaking
Alireza Ashori
Iranian Research Organization for Science and Technology (IROST), Tehran, Iran
World demand for paper has increased at an average annual rate
of 4.7% over the past 40 years. Although future growth will reduce
to 2–3% the existing wood resources may be inadequate to meet this
growing demand for paper especially in the Asia-Pacific region and
Eastern Europe. In addition, logging is coming under increasing
pressure from environmentalists concerned about habitat destruc-
tion and other longer-term impacts of forest harvesting. It is, there-
fore, necessary to consider alternative fiber sources to meet the
possible shortfall of wood fiber for papermaking. Suitable nonwood
fibers are abundantly available in many countries and are the major
source of fiber for papermaking in some developing nations.
Keywords Forest; Nonwood fibers; Paper; Pulp; Strength
properties
INTRODUCTION
Paper plays a vital role in the social, economic, and
environmental development of any country. However, for-
ests are declining at the alarming rate of 13.0 million hec-
tares per year in developing countries
[1]
. Population
growth has increased dramatically since 1960, adding 1 bil-
lion people per 15 years leading to the present 6 billion
[2]
;
the world population could double to 12 billion by
2075
[3]
. Rising population, better literacy, improving com-
munication, and industrialization in developing countries
are expected to increase the demand for paper and paper-
boards by 4.3% per annum as compared to 1.2% in
developed countries
[1]
. New legislative regulations enacted
in response to the demand of environmentalists, environ-
mental groups, and nongovernmental organizations
(NGOs) in various countries are restricting the logging of
trees, which is expected to affect the supply and price of
wood to the international pulp and paper industry
[4]
.
AVAILABILITY OF RAW MATERIAL TO THE PULP
AND PAPER INDUSTRY
During 1963 world consumption of paper and board
was 165 million tons; in 1993 it had risen to approximately
253 million tons and current forecasts indicate that by 2010
consumption will rise to above 400 million tons per year
[5]
.
Paavilainen
[6]
predicts that the total global consumption of
papermaking fibers will increase from the current level of
about 300 million tons in 1996–1997 to approximately
425 million tons by 2010, an increase of 125 million tons.
It is expected that by the year 2010, an additional
50–100 million hectares of forests will be needed to
maintain the projected demand for wood in developing
countries alone
[4]
. Kaldor
[7]
estimated that the global fiber
requirement for pulp would almost double to 23 million
hectares in the year 2010. It is evident that the supply of
wood for the pulp and paper industry will be restricted in
the future
[8]
. Moreover, the cost of delivered wood is
increasing because of higher demand, more costly means
of harvesting, and rising stumpage fees
[9]
. The question
arises of how to meet the increasing global demand for
paper and paperboard of 2–3 % . The increased demand
for paper is likely to be met by one or more of a number
of potential supply sources including
[10]
:
a) Increased harvest of the world timber supply,
b) Increased yield by better control of pests and fire,
c) Increased utilization of nonwood fibrous plants,
d) Increased utilization of forest waste,
e) Increased utilization of waste paper,
f) More environmen tally sound pulping process alterna-
tives such as bio-pulping and=or,
g) More efficie nt production of timber through forest=
plantation improved management practices.
Due to the rising global demand for fibrous material,
worldwide shortage of trees in many areas, and increasing
environmental awareness, nonwoods fibers have become
one of the important alternative sources of fibrous material
for the 21st century.
Address correspondence to A. Ashori, Iranian Research
Organization for Science and Technology (IROST), P.O. Box
15815-3538, Tehran, Iran. E-mail: ashori@irost.ir
Polymer-Plastics Technology and Engineering, 45: 1133–1136, 2006
Copyright # Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
ISSN: 0360-2559 print/1525-6111 online
DOI: 10.1080/03602550600728976
1133
NONWOOD FIBERS AS A PULP AND PAPERMAKING
RAW MATERIAL
The term nonwood fiber encompasses a range of plants
with widely differing characteristics. Nonwood fibers, also
referred to as ‘‘alter nate fibers’’, are nonwoody cellulosic
plant materials from which papermaking fibers can be
extracted. The most widely used nonwoods for papermak-
ing are straws, sugar cane bagasse, bamboo, kenaf, hemp,
jute, sisal, abaca, cotton linters, and reeds. Most nonwood
plants are annual plants that develop full fiber potential in
one growing season.
There is a wide variety of nonwood plant fibers that can
be used for papermaking
[11]
. Nonwoods such as bagasse,
wheat and rice stra ws, bamboo, and kenaf are being used
in the manufacture of pulp and paper all over the world
[12]
.
Kenaf (Hibiscus cannabinus), for example, is being explore d
as a useful raw material for papermaking in developing and
developed countries. Total kenaf production in 1999–2000
was 0.51 million tons, a mong which production from
China accounts for 44%, India for 39%, Thailand for
12%, and the remainder coming from Indonesia, Vietnam
and elsewhere
[13]
.
Table 1 lists the physical and chemical properties of
some nonwoods in comparison to those of wood. The
dimensions of nonwood fibers are between those of hard-
woods and softwoods. The cellulose content of most of
nonwoods listed in Table 1 is comparable to that of woods
commonly used for papermaking, while the lignin content
is much lower than for woods. Hence, the delignification
of nonwoods is relatively easy and consumes less chemicals.
Nonwoods are a critical fiber resource in regions with
inadequate forest resources, and will continue to play an
increasingly important role in these regions. Environment al
pressures, restrictions on forest uses and significant
increases in wood and recycled fiber costs are also forcing
many paper companies in the traditionally forest-rich
countries to take a renewed look at nonwoods. Nonwoods
are abundantly available in many countries and are the
major source of fiber for papermaking in some developing
countries, particularly China and India. Approximately 2.5
billion tonnes of nonwood raw materials are available each
year worldwide, however, most of this raw material is cur-
rently untapped for pulp and papermaking
[9]
.
WORLDWIDE PULPING CAPACITY OF NONWOOD
FIBERS
In 1970, the total worldwide capacity for production of
nonwood fibers papermaking pulp was only 7 million met-
ric tons compared with the total papermaking pulp
capacity of 113 million metric tons. This amount repre-
sented only 6.7% of the total. However, since that time
there has been a dramatic increase in nonwood fibers pulp-
ing capacity. By 1993, total papermaking pulp capacity
based on utilizing nonwood fibers amounted to almos t 21
million metric tons out of a total papermaking pulping
capacity of 197 million tonnes, equivalent to 10.6%.From
1970 to 1996, nonw ood fiber pulping capacity on a global
basis increased 2-3 faster than the capacity for production
papermaking wood pulp. For example, during the period
from 1988–93, nonwood papermaking pulp capacity
increased on average 6% annually, or three times faster
than papermaking wood pulp capacity
[12]
. There is scope
for 10–15% of wood pulp being replaced by nonwood pulp
without significantly affecting strength, optical, and sur-
face properties of most paper grades
[21]
.
There is scope for 10–15% of wood pulp being replaced
by nonwood pulp without affecting much of the strength,
optical, and surface properties of paper
[22]
. The percentage
annual increase in the nonwood plant fiber pulp capacity is
more than double the average annual increase in the wood
pulp capacity, i.e., 4.7% vs. 2.0%
[19]
.
TABLE 1
Comparison of physical and chemical properties of nonwood fibers with those of wood raw materials
Properties Kenaf
[11,12]
Straw
[13,14]
Bagasse
[15,14]
Bamboo
[14]
Eucalyptus
[16]
Birch
[16]
Spruce
[17,18]
Physical:
Fiber length, mm 1.3
a
1.3 1.7 2.3 1.0 1.9 3.6
Fiber width, mm27
a
12.9 20 14.4 18 25 35
Felting factor
b
49
a
102 85 161 51 58 101
Chemical:
c
Holocellulose, % 76.5 78.1 77.8 76.6
d
74
d
81
d
71
d
Hemicellulose, % 32.6 24.1 27.9 19.5
d
18
d
40
d
27
d
Lignin, % 16.2 18.4 20.8 23.4
d
26
d
19
d
29
d
a
Dimensions for whole stem kenaf from bast and core in the ratio of 35% and 65%, respectively.
b
The ratio of fiber length to fiber width.
c
Expressed on dry matter.
d
Extractive free basis.
1134 A. ASHORI
ADVANTAGES AND DRAWBACKS OF USING
NONWOOD FIBER FOR PAPERMAKING
Some nonwood fibers used as raw mate rials for paper-
making have high annual yields per hectare. As can be seen
in Table 2, the average annual yield per hectare of kenaf is
about twice that of fast-gr owing softwoods. Nonwoods
have lower lignin content than do woods and generally it
is easier to delignify nonwoods, as they have lower acti-
vation energies. Another advantage of non-woods includes
lower raw material cost (for bagasse and wheat straw).
It may be surprising that nonwood plant fibers have not
been embraced by the pulp and paper industry, given the
positive attributes described previously and the speculation
that worldwide fiber supply will tighten significantly in the
next years. The industry does understan d some apprehen-
sions over using nonwood fibers for papermaking. In
particular:
a) The use of annual plants represents a real culture
change for the industry, with significant implication
for capital costs, operating costs, products unifor mity,
quality, and reliability.
b) The availability of a constant, year-round supply of
fiber is a primary concern for paper mills. Given that
most nonwood fibers are annual plants, a large storage
capacity must be developed to ensure a constant supply.
This is further complicated by the fact that most
nonwood fiber sources are high in volume and low in
density when compared with wood.
c) The fact that most nonwood fiber sources are high in
volume and low in density when compared with wood.
Besides, transportation can be different due its bulky
nature.
d) High silica content is a problem with nonwood fibres
generally. Most nonwood pulp mills are small and do
not have adequate chemical recovery faci lities to deal
with the large volumes of silica that must be removed.
e) A disadvantage of using certain nonwood fibers (e.g.
kenaf) can be the high inputs required for growth and
harvesting of these annual crops.
CONCLUSIONS
World demand for paper has increased at an average
annual rate of 4.7% over the past 40 years. With the rapid
growth of economies in the Asia-Pacific region and Eastern
Europe, it is likely that similar growth in demand will con-
tinue in these regions for the forseeable future. The existing
wood resources in these regions may be inad equate to meet
this growing demand for paper. In addition, logging is
coming under increasing pressure from environmentalists
concerned about habitat destruction and other longer- term
impacts of forest harvesting. It is, therefore, necessary to
consider alternative fiber so urces to meet the possibl e
shortfall of wood fiber for papermaking.
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TABLE 2
Average annual yields of different papermaking
raw materials
Plant
Fiber yield
(tons=year=ha)
Pulp yield
(tons=year=ha)
Scandinavian softwood 1.5 0.7
Fast-growing softwood 8.6 4
Temperate softwood 3.4 1.7
Fast-growing hardwood 15 7.4
Wheat straw 4 1.9
Rice straw 3 1.2
Bagasse 9 4.2
Bamboo 4 1.6
Kenaf 15 6.5
Hemp 15 6.7
Elephant grass 12 5.7
Canary grass 8 4.0
Source: Pierce
[23]
.
NONWOOD FIBERS IN PAPERMAKING 1135
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1136 A. ASHORI
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