Cardboard is a fully recyclable and biodegradable material. When it comes to packaging, there are few materials that can rival post-consumer recycled cardboard. Still, not all cardboard is made from recycled content–much is made from pine trees. After being ground to a pulp, this wood is cooked in a solution of chemicals like sodium hydroxide (NaOH) and several other ionic compounds such as sulfates, sulfides, and sulfites.
Even though recycled corrugated cardboard is better than plastic packaging, many in the industry think we can do better. At a recent meeting of the Sustainable Packaging Forum in Pittsburgh, Penn., Taiwanese conglomerate YFY Corp. presented a product called nPulp. Made from waste straw biomass without the use of harsh chemicals, nPulp could replace old corrugated cardboard as the most popular paper packaging.
According to Ronald Allen, president of Mobius105, the U.S.-based subsidiary that will distribute the product, the physical properties of Npulp compare very favorably versus other pulp products. “The overall composite strength of Npulp exceeds that of thermal mechanical wood pulp and matches that of American old corrugated cardboard. In fact, our straw bio-pulp will result in saving approximately 30 percent of materials to achieve the same quality of liner paper as compared to recycled pulps,” said Allen. All five of YFY’s paper mills and 18 printing facilities in Taiwan and China have all earned FSC-COC certification.
The best thing about nPulp is that rather than using virgin timber, even cheap, fast-growing pine, it can be made from an agricultural waste product that already exists. According to the company, China alone produces an estimated 600 million tons of agricultural straw biomass, most of which is simply burned, generating significant emissions of carbon dioxide. If recovered, this is enough straw to be converted into a potential supply of 345 million tons of biopulps for producing Npulp.