July issue: Two sample papers were enclosed: a small sheet identified as "Paper coated with hollow-sphere pigment," and a larger sheet of bleached chemi-thermomechanical pulp (BCTMP). They were intended merely to satisfy the curiosity of people who wondered what these papers looked and felt like. Both types of paper had been briefly described in earlier issues.
The hollow sphere pigment is Ropaque HP-91, from Rohm and Haas. It is made of an aqueous dispersion of styreneacrylic polymeric particles, only one micron in diameter, which start out filled with water. The water diffuses through the shell as the paper is dried, leaving the spheres empty. Paper coated with this pigment is said to be lightweight, opaque and smooth.
The other paper sample contains 40% BCTMP and 60% kraft. BCTMP paper is remarkable because 1) it looks so much like freesheet (paper containing little or no mechanical pulp), and 2) it has such good aging properties, despite its high lignin content. This is mostly because the calcium carbonate filler slows down the yellowing and virtually prevents the rapid deterioration common in papers made from mechanical pulp. It is not known whether certain conditions of use and storage might suppress the protective effect of calcium carbonate, or how long it will take for the acidic gases in polluted air to use the filler up. Still, BCTMP is worth taking seriously, because it makes more efficient use of trees.
This issue (November): If all goes well, there will be an insert of kenaf paper, made of fiber grown and pulped in the U.S. and donated by Thomas Rymsza of KP Products in Albuquerque. He is comparatively new to the kenaf scene, having read about the plant for the first time five years ago in a news magazine while flying to New York. An article in the business section of the Albuquerque Journal for June 1, 1992, tells his story. Excerpts follow:
After a year of research that included many phone calls and trips to the library, Rymsza decided in October 1988 to pursue a new career in kenaf.
"Initially, I wanted to sell kenaf, but none was available anywhere in the country, so there was none to sell," he said. 'The next step was how to get it."
In January 1989, Rymsza moved to Arizona in search of a small plot of land to grow kenaf on an experimental basis. He rented a 20-square-foot plot from a cotton farmer, got some help from a USDA [Department of Agriculture] researcher, and went into the kenaf-farming business.
By fall, the kenaf stalks towered almost a dozen feet high. "I got pretty positive results even though I did everything wrong," Rymsza said.
The following year, he planted a little more land, and in five months he was harvesting five tons of it. He moved to New Mexico, where there was more land of the right sort and less competition from other crops, and this year he harvested enough to use commercially. So finally he had some kenaf to sell. The crop is now all spoken for, but some paper will be made available through a retail outlet.
The Albuquerque Journal article goes on to say, quoting Rymsza, that kenaf provides farmers with an alternative cash crop that requires little in the way of herbicides or pesticides; it converts to pulp using less chemicals and less energy than wood does, and you don't have to cut down trees to make paper. It says the crop can produce 7 to 11 tons of dry fiber an acre, and starting from seed, it reaches mature heights of 10 to 14 feet within four to five months.
The next obstacle will be to persuade investors to provide capital for equipment and mills. Pulp mills built for processing wood will not work for kenaf, so the dried stalks cannot simply be sent to an existing pulp mill. This obstacle has also held up progress of Kenaf International's mill in McAllen, Texas, though eventual success is expected.
There was an article on kenaf in developing countries on page 141 of the October 1992 Tappi Journal.