A new approach that makes paper from straw, which cuts production costs and is kinder to the planet, is one step closer to reality thanks to an investment award of £90,500 from NESTA (the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts) – the organisation that nurtures UK creativity and innovation.
The innovation is the brainchild of a Surrey-based environmental company, BioRegional MiniMills Ltd. The driving force behind this company is a former nurse, Sue Riddlestone who became very active in the environmental field after starting a family. Following a stint of voluntary work for the eco-lobby group Greenpeace, she co-founded BioRegional as an environmental charity. It works in partnership with industry to develop sustainable production and lifestyles through practical projects. The MiniMills offshoot was established in 1997 to develop new, cleaner technology to make paper on a small scale. Sue is joined by a range of experts from the paper processing industry.
There are reported to be nearly 9,000 paper and board mills worldwide, and the demand for paper is growing at a rate of 3% per annum. Current mills are huge operations run by multi-national companies. However, MiniMills’ new process would allow more independent paper makers to compete with these large-scale processes. Their method would facilitate the use of a much greater variety of raw materials, including straw - four million tonnes of straw goes unused in the UK annually - and wood from sustainably-managed, smaller woodlands for use in papermaking. This would provide income generation for both farmers and foresters.
Joseph Meaney | alfa
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