Deal struck to sell straw-based paper

Staples agreement deemed significant | Company would like to build a plant in Western Canada

A deal to supply paper to Staples Canada means a Winnipeg company’s plan to build a straw-based paper plant in Western Canada is one step closer to reality.

In mid-August, Prairie Pulp & Paper announced that its paper, which is made from wheat straw, is now available at Staples stores in Canada.

Sold under the Step Forward Paper brand, the product is made from 80 percent wheat straw and 20 percent tree fibre certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.

“Paper made from leftover straw produces high quality and performance that compares with other copy and printer papers,” Pete Gibe, vice-president of merchandising at Staples Canada, said in a statement.

Prairie Pulp & Paper manufactures its office paper at a plant in India, but it still plans to build North America’s first commercial-scale straw paper plant, at an estimated cost of $500 million to $1 billion.

“Our goal is to establish a market that will support our plans to build a new state-of-the-art facility in the Canadian Prairies in Manitoba,” said Jeff Golfman, Prairie Pulp & Paper Inc. president.

Golfman, along with company chair Clayton Manness, a Manitoba cabinet minister in the 1990s, have been developing plans and recruiting investors for a straw-based paper plant for more than a decade.

Woody Harrelson, a Hollywood actor best known for his role on Cheers, is the most famous investor in Prairie Pulp & Paper.

“As for the viability of paper made from straw, we have proven its abilities to work in almost any context,” Harrelson told The Western Producer in 2010.

“It’s only a matter of time before some clever investor steps up and sees the massive market potential.”

One of the partners in Step Forward Paper is Canopy, a Toronto non-profit organization that is trying to protect the world’s forests by collaborating with businesses to develop sustainable supply chains, such as paper made from crop straw.

“Our market survey continues to quantify a clear and growing demand from large paper customers for paper made from leftover straw,” said Canopy campaign director Amanda Carr.

Manness told the Winnipeg Free Press that sales of Step Forward Paper should demonstrate if there is a substantial consumer demand for straw-based paper.

If demand is high, it will help Prairie Pulp & Paper raise the necessary investment capital to construct a paper plant in Manitoba.

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