Tree-free paper is far from an environmental fad. In fact, up until the 1850s, cotton rags and nonwood plants were the dominant sources of fiber used for paper making! However, that situation changed rapidly in the late 1800s with the development of wood pulping technologies that took advantage of the vast forest resources in the U.S.
Today, nearly all of the virgin paper produced in the U.S. is made from wood fiber derived from trees. Although recovered paper makes up a significant—and growing—percentage of the fiber used to make paper in the U.S., wood fiber from trees harvested specifically for paper-making still accounts for much of the total fiber used for paper-making in the U.S.
Tree-free papers offer an environmentally preferable alternative to tree-based papers for several reasons. The plant sources of tree-free fibers regrow rapidly and the harvesting of the plants does not disrupt natural ecosystems. Additionally, the processing of tree-free fibers to produce pulp for paper-making requires considerably less energy and chemical input than does the processing of wood-based fibers. With growing restrictions on timber harvesting, and increasing concerns to preserve forests and reduce pollution from virgin wood pulp production, tree-free papers are gaining increased attention.
Tree-free papers are produced from one of two sources: crops grown specifically for paper-making (usually annuals, such as kenaf or hemp); and residues from agricultural crops (such as straw from rice, wheat, and rye).
Other Web Sites
Conservatree "Tree-Free Papers": A comprehensive information source for tree-free paper issues and tree-free paper listing.
Fiber Futures: A dedicated advocacy and consulting group that focuses on catalyzing the use of agricultural residues and fibers from non-wood plants for building materials, pulp & paper, textiles and other industries.