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It's 80 per cent wheat-straw, 20 per cent recycled wood fibres, and 100 per cent brilliant idea.

Wheat-straw-based Step Forward Paper was an idea that came at random for environmental entrepreneur Jeff Golfman, and a nearly 14-year process from the idea- to retail-stage. At the time, I was collecting newspapers and selling them to paper mills and that got me thinking about all the fibres the paper mills consumed, says Golfman, the president and co-founder of Prairie Pulp & Paper and the Step Forward Paper endeavour. After seeing farmers burning their fields, he had the idea to transform those fibres into paper.

That's when Golfman envisioned making paper out of leftover agricultural waste from farms. After over a decade of travelling, and research and development, Step Forward Paper was finally introduced into the market in 2012. It took us a very long time to figure out how to do it in a cost-effective, eco-friendly, high-quality way, says Golfman, We were crisscrossing the globe trying to find research facilities and pilot-scale facilities and demonstration facilities.

In 2008, Golfman reached out to paper and printing supplier Unisource in an effort to market Step Forward Paper. We worked through that process with him to the point where he actually had gone beyond just actually producing the product, says Andrew Gustyn, director of sustainability at Unisource. He was able to produce a product that was capable of being marketed and sold in the Canadian and North American market.

While consumers in North America become more aware and interested in wheat-straw paper, the agriculture industry is thriving off of this endeavour as well. We're already creating value-added revenues for the farmers, says Golfman. Hopefully that will stimulate more investment into value-added agricultural revenue options.

Eventually we'll begin to see more than just agricultural-based paper on the market, says Gustyn. You're going to see them in a variety of things from towels and tissue to hand towels and paper towels, he says. There's an environmental consciousness and mental consciousness developing amongst consumers and there's a demand for it.

Golfman believes their partnership with the agriculture industry is a win-win situation for all parties. It's really a great thing because you help the farmers, you reduce the forestation, and it's also a sustainable business, he says. It's a triple bottom line; we're helping people, we're helping the planet, and we're running a sustainable business.

Long-term, Golfman says he hopes to build a paper manufacturing company here in Canada, as Step Forward Paper is currently produced overseas. We're working on the increase of our product offering, so we can have more options available for people and as we release more and more products, he says. That gets us closer to our goal of building a factory here in Canada.

Photo: Brian A. Jackson/iStock