• Banana tree fibre paper

    Banana tree fibre paper. (Photo: Christian Sisson)

Jeff Golfman won the 2013 3M Environmental Innovation Award for his work turning wheat straw waste into paper. But he wasn’t the first to make paper out of products other than trees. Many agricultural products are used to make paper in different countries. Here are five other materials that can be used to creating paper.


They have been around for centuries and are even referred to in the Koran as the fruit of paradise. With 15 countries around the world in the banana business, the industry generates a great deal of banana stem waste. Since 1992, The Banana Paper Company has been using agricultural by-products left over from banana plantations and combining them with post-consumer natural paper to create notebooks, pads and envelopes.

Coffee Bean Bags

What do you do with piles of ripped and torn coffee bean burlap bags? If you’re Kelly Stewart and Ted Gast, you turn those old bags into paper. The St. Louis entrepreneurs took the idea of using old burlap sacks instead of wood pulp to make paper. Now, George A. Whiting Paper Co. makes Kona Paper out of recycled bag fibre, with 1,360 kilograms of bags creating 2,721 kilograms of paper. Some businesses in the United States are purchasing Kona Paper for gift cards, coasters and cup sleeves.


It isn’t only coffee bean bags that can make pages to write on. EcoPaper uses agricultural by-products involved in the coffee processing and crushes them down. The resulting fibres are then combined with paper that has already been used in some way, such as old magazines and newspapers. The finished product is Coffee Paper, containing 10 per cent coffee fibre. And there’s no caffeine buzz from using it!

Sugar cane husks

Left in fields after harvesting, sugar cane husks are often left to rot or burned, which potentially creates greenhouse gas pollution. But Treefree Paper uses those husks as the base product for some of its paper fibre. It’s a sweet alternative.


Malaysia is one of the world’s largest palm oil producers. But in the manufacturing process, there is a great deal of waste left over. It used to be the waste was either left on the ground, burned, or mulched. However, Palm Republik is working on taking the biomass left from palm oil, shredding it and turning it into fibres to be used to make paper products, including notebooks, bookmarks and gift tags.