Kimberly-Clark to use wheat straw in paper products

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Kimberly-Clark Professional announced the launch of GreenHarvest products, a new offering that incorporates rapidly renewable plant-based fiber, such as wheat straw and bamboo, into Kleenex and Scott brand towel and tissue products.  

The paper products will be made with 20 percent plant fiber in place of tree fiber or recycled fiber.  These products required the development of an entirely new supply chain to directly obtain wheat straw from U.S. farmers and the creation of a first-of-its-kind manufacturing process for converting plant fiber into pulp, the company explained.

"In a resource-constrained, digital world, with fewer sources of recycled fiber, and the need to put less pressure on natural forests, it's important to continue exploring non-tree fibers,"  said Iris Schumacher, North American sustainability leader, Kimberly-Clark Professional. "With the GreenHarvest line, Kimberly-Clark is pioneering a new approach to sustainable fiber sourcing and delivering innovative products with the quality and performance customers expect from our trusted brands."

It was announced that by 2025, Kimberly-Clark hopes to source 50 percent of the fiber in its products from alternative sources. GreenHarvest products being produced using bamboo are different than the GreenHarvest products using wheat straw. Users of commercial towels and tissues, such as schools, hotels and offices, will see the fiber source on the packaging.

Rapidly Renewable Fiber

Bamboo and wheat straw meet the U.S. Green Building Council's definition of rapidly renewable materials because they can regenerate in less than 10 years.  These fibers have shorter harvesting cycles, which reduces the amount of land needed to support demand and takes advantage of abundant plant sources.

Bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants in the world, and some species can grow at rates of more than three feet per day. Wheat straw is the residue that remains after wheat is harvested.  Over 45 million tons of this agricultural byproduct is generated in the U.S. every year, with relatively few beneficial uses. Incorporating these fiber "leftovers" into towel and tissue products helps reduce farmland waste and provides additional income to farmers, by enhancing the value of their crops, contends Kimberly-Clark officials.

"By creating a new, beneficial use for wheat straw, Kimberly-Clark Professional is providing an economic boost for farmers, adding value to our state's largest crop and helping us reduce agricultural waste," said Aaron Harries, vice president of research and operations, Kansas Wheat Commission. "It's a win-win-win solution for farmers, the economy and the environment."

Sustainability Leadership

In 2012, Kimberly-Clark Professional became the first major towel and tissue manufacturer in North America to pilot the use of products containing non-tree fiber, it was noted. GreenHarvest products are the "next-generation" of these products, an initiative recognized by leading environmental non-governmental organizations (ENGOs).

"Kimberly-Clark has demonstrated that it can lead in the field of sustainable fiber for its tissue products," said Rolf Skar, forest campaign director, Greenpeace. "Its foray into the emerging field of commercial-scale sustainable alternative fibers is a good example. As one of the world's largest towel and tissue products manufacturers, K-C is leading the way and showing other companies that they too can innovate to find new ways to make their supply chains more sustainable."

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