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Paper Making from Rice Straw

Page history last edited by PBworks 15 years, 1 month ago
Making Paper- An Alternative to Wood


Description and Rationale


    Paper is very simple to make, and does not take a whole lot of time. There are only a few steps, and not many materials are needed. First, you take wood from any tree and even some bushes and grasses, though usually it is pulpwood trees, hardwood, or softwood trees. Then you separate the fibers by pulping the wood. There are two main types of pulping, chemical pulping and mechanical pulping. Once you have a wet pulp substance, you need to drain the water from it, and there are many ways to do this. It takes a combination of pressing and drying, and the end result is a piece of paper. In the Philippines there are billions of tons of rice straws thrown away or burned, and, since these are fiber, they could be used to make paper instead.

Paper is used by millions of people across the world, but many of these people don’t know that because of the need for wood hundreds of acres of forests are being destroyed. Is there an alternative to wood that could help prevent deforestation? Could people make a livelihood off of what others think of as a waste? Is making paper out of rice straws a feasible goal? Could people make a livelihood out of what used to be considered a waste?

    Is it really possible to create quality paper out of the leftovers of a harvest? In the Philippines, the IRRI (International Rice Research Institute) found that you can make paper from rice straws. Usually thrown away or burned by farmers, rice straws can make high-quality paper from what used to be considered a waste. We could also help the carbon-dioxide in the atmosphere by not burning as many plants. How could we get this news around to all the farmers so that they can have a second source of income? Is this Philippine handmade paper realistically usable by the whole world? Why are people who do know about this not helping spread the information?

    The initial purpose of this project will be to research the biology and ecology of the rice that’s stalk is used to make paper through researching the internet, books, and interviews with people experienced in this business. These findings will help guide the experimental phase where I will explore more about this type of making paper.

    I hope that more people will start making handmade paper out of rice straws and help improve their livelihood and save the environment at the same time.    


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Common Names and Synonyms

    Oryza sativa is most commonly known as rice. It is grown in most of Asia and many parts of the world, and is a staple for life. O. sativa is what most people will think of when they think of rice, with the other most common species limited to West Africa.

    In the Philippines, there are seven names for rice. Palay, bigas, kanin, lugaw, tutong, bahaw, and sinangag. Each one is a different type of rice, from when it is first harvested, to when it is dehulled, to how it was cooked.



Kingdom:     Plantae (plant)

Phylum:     Magnoliophyta (flowering plants)

Class:     Liliopsida (monocots)

Order:     Poales (small)

Family:     Poaceae (true grass)

Genus:     Oryza (rice)

Species:     sativa (grain)

    The other most commonly grown rice is O. glaberrima, most commonly grown in Western Africa. Both species are native to Southern Asia and Africa, and are still most commonly grown in these locations.


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Morphology and Physical Description


    This rice can grow to between 1 and 1.8 meters tall, with long slender leaves between 50 and 100 centimeters long. Most of the rice is made up of the tiller and the panicle. Each panicle has spikelet’s, which eventually turn into the rice grain.

    The tiller consists of the roots, the Culm, and the leaves. The Culm, or jointed stem, is made up of nodes and internodes. The leaves are grown off of the nodes, one leaf per node. At the top of the Culm is the pinnacle, where the rice grains are grown off. Each spikelet can produce one grain, and the whole plant reproduction system is in each of these.


    Internally, the rice is the same as most other plants. Each of its grains have pistils and stamens (the female and male reproductive system in a plant), and when they ovary is ripened, it becomes the rice grain. The grain is covered by a hull, which when taken off creates caryopsis, or brown rice. This brown rice is covered with three layers, the tegmen, pericap, and aleurone, which cover the endosperm and embryo.

    The rice is grown in shallow water because it has exceptional water resistance. The water helps keep away weeds. In some cases there is rice that can be grown in water 2 meters deep, known as floating rice. Floating rice has longer stems than regular rice. The water where rice is grown is known as patties, and is drained once the rice is grown enough.



Getting Food

    The rice plant uses photosynthesis to grow, but the reason it can grow in water is because there are air tunnels in the leaves and stem. The root needs air to grow, so the air tunnels push the air to the roots. Weeds and other plants can’t grow because they do not have air tunnels. Water is taken in along with carbon dioxide, sunlight, and other chemicals to create energy.


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Each rice flower (the spikelet) has six stamens (the male parts) and the pistil (the female part). In each stamen there is an anther that holds the pollen grains. The pollen grains are released into the carpel, where the stigma and ovary are stored. When the grains get to the stigma, they are transported to the ovary and will are fertilized, growing into a rice grain.

There are about seven million tons of rice grown every year, with China and India Growing over 200 million of those tons.


Environmental Factors

    Rice thrives in Southeast Asia and Africa, but can be grown almost anywhere with a minimum temperature of 75 degrees Fahrenheit. It needs rainfall for irrigation, and requires heavy labor. In the Philippines it is grown in either wet or dry season, but has a larger crop yield in dry season. It takes three months to grow rice; therefore making it possible to grow several crops in one year. Rice grows best in warmer climates, as long as it is not too warm. Researchers are worried about global warming, because an increase in temperature can drastically affect rice yield.

    There are several rice pests that can be found in rice paddies. Insects, birds, rodents, weeds, and others are common, and can be caused due to overuse of pesticides, fertilizers, and even weather. Major ones are the brown plant hopper, armyworms, and the green leaf hopper.


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Origin and Distribution

    Rice is native to Africa and countries in Southeast Asia, including the Philippines, India, China, Korea, and Japan, and was eventually introduced to Eastern Europe and the Middle East. The Spanish brought rice over to South America, probably at the beginning of the 18th century, and even grows in some places in America (such as South Carolina and Georgia).


Importance to People

    Rice is by far the most important crop in Asia. It is the most consumed cereal grain, and also the largest crop with 700 million metric tons grown in 2005. It is estimated that half of the world depends even partly on rice for their nutrition and energy everyday, especially in Asia. 90% of rice’s crop is produced and consumed in Asia, although America is the second largest exporter. Brown rice is healthier than the more common white rice, because the outer layers that are still on the grain provide protein and other nutrients lacking in the endosperm.


    Rice is also used to make paper, poster board, and cereal and other foods instead of just eaten in its natural state. Also, the stalks and straw can be used to make animal feed, and put into mattresses and packing material.


    In the Philippines the IRRI (International Rice Research Institute) has developed many different types of rice, fertilizers, equipment, and other technology to help us meet our food needs in the future. The growing population demands more food, therefore the annual crop yield needs to be raised. They are also encouraging people in the Philippines to make handmade paper out of the rice straws. Normally considered a waste, these straws are burned, but a project led by Ms. Fe Frialde near Los Banos that turned the straw into paper had good business. Now handmade paper is exported around the world, and all the rice straw is free from the IRRI.


Survivability and Endangered Status

    Rice is not being endangered, but is rather growing. In 1960 there were 200 million metric tons of rice grown and that has increased at a steady rate to 600 million tons grown in 2004, and 700 in 2005. There is credit put to the IRRI in Los Banos for developing new methods and rice’s that produce greater crop yield. There needs to be more rice grown still, however to keep up with the steadily growing population of the world, and there are still newer and better methods coming out of the IRRI to help.



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Potential Solutions

    The Rice plant is a vital part of the world, providing food for billions of people. Tons and tons of rice stalks are left over after the harvests several times a year that are usually burned. The IRRI institute in Los Banos, Philippines is researching some alternatives, and is also researching different rice genes to help farmers be more productive. There are several alternatives to burning the stalks, and below are three of the most common. If farmers around the world use these alternatives, they can help save the environment and also start a second source of income to them and their families, and eventually to their communities.

Possibility 1


    Many farmers who don’t want to burn their leftover rice hulls use them to make fertilizer for themselves and others. The Hulls can be composted because they are organic material, but may take a long time because of its high lignin content. Earthworms are usually used to help speed up the process through vermicomposting, making the process only take about four months. The fertilizer helps recycle nutrients and eliminates waste in the ground, and is often mixed with animal manure to make an even better fertilizer, depending.


1.    Why should a person burn their crop when they can make a mixture that will help their next crop grow better? It can help produce better rice and can be sold to help the income of the producer. It helps take something that was a waste and turns it into something that helps your flowers if you are a simple gardener and your whole fields of crops if you are a farmer.

2.    If you use hulls that you had grown the year earlier, then you would not have to pay anything for fertilizer, saving you a lot of money. You can get just as good fertilizer for free, instead of having to buy expensive mixtures.


1.    Making the fertilizer can take a very long time, and if the vermicomposting process somehow goes wrong than the fertilizer may not be very good by the time you need to plant your crops. Also, you need to go find the worms to use in the process. It may not take very long, but some people don’t like to touch worms.

2.    Many people would just buy fertilizer from the store because they would not like home-made fertilizer. The fertilizer from the store is often better, so many people wouldn’t want to risk their crops not growing well one year if they use a bad fertilizer.


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Possibility 2


    Because of what the hulls of rice are made out of, they can be made into ash, which then can be put into a cement mixture to produce an insulating wall. In 1987 in Quezon City, Philippines a house was built with a mix between cement, and rice hull ash that is still standing and doing well today.


1.    Rice hulls are difficult to burn, and are less likely to mold making them good to put in walls and ceilings. (first it must be made into rice hull ash, however)

2.    There are small amounts of silica in the hulls, making them extremely good as thermal insulation. It can help keep a house warm in the winter or cold in the summer. Because of this reason it is sometimes used in hay piles where animals sleep to keep them warm.


1.    If the wrong mixture is used while putting the ash in the cement then the wall will not be as sturdy as it should be, and will not last long.

2.    If burned, the silica can sometimes become glass-like, which could possible make the walls weaken in a fire. Although, that is only if it is hot enough.


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Possibility 3


    Handmade paper making has been in the Philippines since maybe as far back as the Hispanic period. The IRRI in Los Banos is encouraging the use of rice straws to make high-quality paper, and donates a large amount of their straw to Fe Frialde, one of the leading manufacturers of this paper. Most of the paper is exported, and today there are over 100 manufacturers in the Philippines.

    I recently went out to Binangunon where I saw some rice farmers with a large stack of stalks nearby. I went down through their fields to go talk to them, and interviewed the owner of that farm, Leopoldo Cequena. With the help of my dad to translate, I asked Leopoldo questions about what he was doing, what he would do with the leftover straws from the harvest, how much rice he can harvest and some others. Leopoldo grew C-14 rice, which was good for growing every three months. That means that in one year he could grow three crops with time to spare, although he did not because his field flooded every year. When I asked what he did with the straws he said he just burned them, then I looked around at the huge field and wondered how much he had to burn every year. If he did that three times a year it could really hurt the environment, and also he could have made a lot of paper out of it. He did not know how much land he had, but he had enough rice to fill over 100 large sacs with the grains, which means there is much more straw than 100 sacs. I watched the hired men go through the process of threshing the rice, then went to a mill nearby and asked the owner some other questions.








1.    The high-quality rice is a good way to make a living, with exports averaging 120.22 million dollars annually. You can use your old husks to make a good living in the off-time of harvest. In Leopoldo’s case, he could have made paper out of his stalks during the flood months instead of burning it.

2.    The paper saves tons of straw from being burned, therefore saving the atmosphere. Every year 10-12 million tons of straw are produced in the Philippines, so how much paper could be made from that? Also, how much harm does burning that much does to the atmosphere?


1.    The Abaca pulp used to mix with the rice straw pulp for the paper is often hard to get or expensive. Also, the chemicals and machines needed for the paper are costly.

2.    If you are a farmer working to grow three crops of rice a year you do not have a lot of spare time to spend making paper out of last harvest’s leftovers. Planting rice is very time consuming and takes a lot of hard work.


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Cequena, Leopoldo. Personal interview. 30 April 2007

“How Paper is Made.” University of Minnesota. 1998. 29 March 2007 <http://www.


“Making Paper from Rice Straw.” IRRI. 2007. 29 March 2007 <http://www.irri.org/


“Philippines Handmade Paper.” Handmade Paper. undated. 29 March 2007 <http://www. theearthpaper.net/philippines-handmade-paper.html>


“Rice Hulls.” Wikipedia.com 2007. Wikipedia. 6 May 2007 <http://en.wikipedia.org


“Rice Knowledge Bank.” IRRI. 2006. 12 April 2007 <http://www.knowledgebank.irri.


“Rice.” ThinkQuest. undated. 6 May 2007 <http://library.thinkquest.org/3891/ RICEONE.HTM>

“Rice.” Wikipedia.com 2007. Wikipedia. 12 April, 2007 <http://en.wikipedia.



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