OMNIA Partners Blog

The Truth Behind Alternative Fiber Paper

Posted by Sonda Sahley on August 11, 2015

As the “green” trend continues to soar, our membership is often influenced to review alternative fiber paper options, specifically wheat paper. By comparing and contrasting alternative fiber papers to traditional paper, Office Depot’s paper manufacturer, Boise Paper, has been able to provide some valuable information surrounding the issue.


Forests are critical to the health of our environment, providing oxygen, carbon storage, water purification, wildlife habitat, and many other benefits. Some argue that using paper made from agricultural materials, like wheat straw, is a good way to protect our forests because it will result in fewer trees being cut down. But, that argument doesn’t hold up when examined closely.

Many people are surprised to hear that 90% of the forest products made in the U.S. come from privately owned lands. The majority of those (over 60%) are owned by individuals or families.  Without a market for the wood, landowners might choose to convert forests to agriculture or development, losing all of the benefits that forests offer.

The revenue from selling wood also gives landowners the financial resources to manage their land sustainably. In fact, regrowth is double the rate of harvest, so we’re in no danger of depleting our forestland by using it. 


Most of the alternative fiber papers today are made from agricultural residue, such as wheat straw or bagasse, the stalks from sugar cane. You’ll often see them marketed as tree-free, sugar paper or wheat paper. The claim is that these papers are more sustainable than wood-based paper, and use materials that would otherwise go to waste.

In reality, about 50% of wheat straw goes for livestock feed, and an additional 35% (or more in arid climates) remains on the land to prevent erosion. Even if sold and marketed in North America, alternative-fiber copy paper currently on the market is made offshore – most in China or India, and some in South America.

It makes a lot of sense to use alternative fibers in countries where forests are endangered or sparse. Boise, like many U.S. manufacturers over the years, has investigated the use of alternative fibers. However, in the U.S., there doesn’t seem to be any reason to abandon a wood based system – a demonstrated renewable and sustainable system – in favor of one that may very well have unintended negative consequences.


Interested in learning more about your paper options, and the Corporate United, Office Depot program? Contact us, or call your member development representative to learn more.

This blog post was a collaborative piece between Corporate United and our supplier partner, Office Depot. We thank Office Depot for providing valuable information that guided this discussion.

Topics: Corporate Services, Office Depot

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