Is kraft paper biodegradable? (7 applications)

This article will elaborate on the biodegradability status of kraft paper. Other aspects that will be shed light upon include: 

  • What is kraft paper?
  • How is kraft paper made?
  • What is kraft paper made of?
  • Is kraft paper harmful to the environment?
  • What is biodegradability?
  • Is kraft paper biodegradable?
  • Can kraft paper be composted?
  • FAQs

Is kraft paper biodegradable?

Kraft paper is biodegradable because it is sourced from trees (a natural source). Kraft paper is named so because of its high tensile strength. 

Kraft paper differs from conventional white paper because its production does not involve the use of a bleaching agent. Further, there is a high lignin content in kraft paper as well. 

Kraft paper, since it is obtained from plant-based sources, can be composted to be used as a natural fertiliser which is known to have many positive impacts on the environment and the economy. 

What is kraft paper?

Kraft paper is also named brown paper. The word kraft means strength. As it can be guessed, the main feature of kraft paper is its strength due to which it can be used in a variety of applications and uses. 

The main source of the strength in kraft paper comes from the absence of bleaching agents. Normal paper production involves the usage of bleaching agents. Examples of these bleaching agents may be hydrogen peroxide. 

The primary function behind the use of bleeding agents is the obtaining of whiteness of the paper. This is important because pure white paper is better off as one can write better and more clearly on white coloured paper as compared to brown coloured paper. 

However, this whitening comes at a cost. When the normal paper is produced with the use of bleaching agents, it results in a decrease in the tensile strength of the paper. As a result, the paper may not be that thick or strong. 

In the making of kraft paper, this step is simply avoided. This results in a brown-coloured, strong and sturdy paper which can be used for functions that were otherwise unattainable in the case of common white paper. 

It may, however, be clarified that this does mean kraft paper is entirely better off as compared to white paper. Each has its own pros and cons. This is not the focus of the article. 

The primary focus of the article is to assess the environmental impact of kraft paper while giving a special emphasis on the biodegradability aspect. 

Biodegradability is important because it is a measure to ensure that a product will not cause trouble or commotion after its usage and that it can be processed in a way that waste management systems are given any unwanted burdens. 

What is kraft paper made of and how? (7 applications) 

Kraft paper is made like any other ordinary paper. The main raw material that is involved in the making of kraft paper is cellulose extracted from wood pulp. 

The kraft paper-making process involves steps such as the removal of bark and lignin. However, kraft paper has a high concentration of lignin as compared to other types of paper. 

As per the removal of bark and lignin, two approaches exist. One is by the use of chemicals and the other is by the use of mechanical power. 

In the case of the first, the common chemicals that are usually involved include sodium sulphide and sodium hydroxide. 

The second strategy is the use of machinery. There may be multiple steps or stages of this approach. These may include: 

  • Wet end
  • Wet press section 
  • Dryer section 
  • Calender section

However, it is important to mention that this use of machinery happens at the expense of non-renewable sources of energy. As it is known, the use of non-renewable sources of energy means the burning of fossil fuels which adds up GHGs in the atmosphere. 

This leads to environmental anomalies such as global warming, pollution, ozone depletion et cetera. 

The final kraft paper that is obtained after the accomplishment of these steps may have the following uses and applications: 

  • Packaging of Industrial products
  • Protective shipping 
  • Arts and crafts 
  • Tray lining
  • Void filling 
  • Gift wrapping
  • Strong envelops 

Is kraft paper harmful to the environment?

This section will cover the environmental impacts that are caused by the production and use of kraft paper. 

It already has been established that the production of kraft paper will happen at the cost of non-renewable resources, mostly. 

This will lead to the emissions of GHGs that will contribute to the exacerbation of environmental anomalies such as the greenhouse effect, global warming, deforestation, depletion of non-renewable resources, pollution et cetera. 

Further, you may argue that since kraft paper is made or extracted from plant-based sources, it will not have any environmental impact. Incidentally, this statement or assumption is also far from the truth. 

The fact of the matter is that every consumer product will have some impact on the environment regardless of the extent of naturality of its source. 

Kraft paper is made from plant sources but it does involve the cutting of trees. Trees are essential entities that save us from environmental anomalies and play their part in the sustainability and maintaining the greenness of the environment.

If there will be excessive tree cutting, there will be negative impacts on the environment including soil erosion, destruction of habitats, and disruption of ecosystems. Trees are the primary producers. They are the starting points of food webs and food chains. 

If trees are cut in grave amounts, there will be effects reciprocated at various levels of food chains. 

With decreased amounts of trees, there will be an increased release of carbon in the form of carbon dioxide. This is because plants and trees take up carbon and convert it into oxygen. This saves our atmosphere from a couple of environmental anomalies. 

When there are fewer trees, there will be a more polluted atmosphere due to carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is regarded as a greenhouse gas. This is because it leads to a phenomenon that is termed global warming. 

Global warming, as the name suggests, leads to increased global temperatures. This, in turn, gives rise to a plethora of other anomalies as well. These can be summarised into: 

  • Increased melting of glaciers
  • Soil erosion
  • Deforestation
  • Acid rain
  • Ozone depletion
  • Droughts
  • Floods 
  • Disruption of ecosystems 
  • Destruction of habitats
  • Unprecedented weather patterns 
  • Financial losses
  • Substantial losses
  • Species endangerment 

What is biodegradability?

Biodegradability is defined as the process of breakdown of waste into simpler products by the action of microbes and enzymes. The term biodegradability is coined from two terms. These are bio and degradation. 

Bio means life and degradation means the breakdown into simpler materials. This breakdown is very essential because it is a parameter to ensure that there is no waste generation and no waste accumulation. 

If there is waste accumulation, there will be pollution and natural habitats will be disrupted. A common example of biodegradation can be the spoilage of food or rotting vegetables. 

Biodegradability can also be analogised to the Earth’s dustbin because it is a process to treat and segregate waste. Biodegradability ensures that the waste gets back to the system and is properly utilised. 

However, not all waste is biodegradable. When it comes to biodegradability, there are two types of waste that are present. These include biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste. 

Biodegradable waste is the type of waste which can be degraded by the action of microbes and enzymes over a short period of time. Regarding this type, there is a general rule of thumb that biodegradable waste is mostly sourced from natural sources. 

Examples of biodegradable waste include plant waste, animal waste, sewage, manure, waste from slaughterhouses et cetera. 

Next, we have is a non-biodegradable waste. This type of waste is mostly sourced from non-natural sources such as the products of fossil fuels. This type of waste won’t degrade readily by the action of microbes. 

It is claimed that this type of waste may require even a thousand years to degrade. Therefore, it will lead to waste accumulation and negative impacts. Because of this, non-biodegradable waste is of greater concern to environmentalists as compared to biodegradable waste. 

Examples of non-biodegradable waste include synthetic plastics, synthetic fibres, epoxies, hazardous waste, nuclear waste, electronic waste et cetera. 

Based on this detail, it can be said that since kraft paper is sourced from nature (trees) it is easily biodegradable. There is no facet of non-naturality when it comes to kraft paper. 

Can kraft paper be composted?

This section will deal with the composting process of kraft paper. Composting is essential because when a product can be composted, there are multiple benefits that can be enjoyed. 

Composting is a process of making waste to compost. It is dead organic matter which can be used as a natural fertiliser to: 

  • Improve the fertility of the soil
  • Improve the water retention profile of the soil
  • Improve the crops yield 
  • Better resource management 
  • Improved economy and less financial and substantial losses
  • Avoidance of negative impacts of synthetic fertilisers 

However, not all materials can be composted. There are certain conditions that have to be met. These include: 

  • The material must be non-toxic
  • The material must be natural
  • The material must have organic content in it

Since kraft is obtained from trees, it does adhere to the requirements. Therefore, kraft paper can be composted and thus used as a natural fertiliser. 

Conclusion

It is concluded that kraft paper is biodegradable because it is sourced from trees (a natural source). Kraft paper is named so because of its high tensile strength. 

Kraft paper differs from conventional white paper because its production does not involve the use of a bleaching agent. Further, there is a high lignin content in kraft paper as well. 

Kraft paper, since it is obtained from plant-based sources, can be composted to be used as a natural fertiliser which is known to have many positive impacts on the environment and the economy. 

Frequently Asked Questions: Is kraft paper biodegradable?

Why is kraft paper brown in colour?

Kraft paper is brown in colour because it does not use bleaching agents such as hydrogen peroxide. 

References

  • Alava, M., & Niskanen, K. (2006). The physics of paper. Reports on progress in physics, 69(3), 669.
  • Hunter, D. (1978). Papermaking: the history and technique of an ancient craft. Courier Corporation.
  • Hubbe, M. A., Venditti, R. A., & Rojas, O. J. (2007). What happens to cellulosic fibres during papermaking and recycling? A review. BioResources, 2(4), 739-788.
  • Hamel, Gregory. (July 21, 2017). The Effects of Cutting Down Trees on the Ecosystem. Retrieved from: https://sciencing.com/the-effects-of-cutting-down-trees-on-the-ecosystem-12000334.html

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