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There has been a growing
interest in the addition of plant fibers as an alternative to wood fibers to
paper for reinforcement and aggregate. Information from the Philippine Paper
Manufacturers Association Inc. (Geganto, 2015) point out that common species
used in producing paper in the Philippines are fibers from Acacia (A.mangium), Rainbow Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus deglupta), Ipil-ipil (Leucaena leucocephala) and Gmenlia (Gemlina arborea). Madson & Gamstedt
(2013) advocate the view that plant fibers have higher abundance and production
compared to wood fibers for paper production. A previous study by Dutt &
Tyagi (2011) utilized a plant fiber in making paper where in specifically they
included different species of eucalyptus to create paper with high pulp return
and strength capable for printing and writing use. Other aquatic plants were
also used to make paper through a handmade process which resulted with an all
purpose paper with ample tensile strength, breaking length and moisture content
(Aziz, Bidin, Bujang & Zakaria, 2015). The same method was also done but
with canola stalks in making paper (Enayati, Hamzeh, Mirshokraei & Molaii,
2009). It is a common finding that plant fibers are not only added to paper to
reinforce the strength of paper but also to reduce the use of wood fibers to
decrease the consumption of trees.

However, wood fibers are also
found to have advantages against plant fiber for usage in paper production
(Madson & Kristofer, 2013). It was pointed out that wood fibers are low
cost and readily available from mills with better processability along with the
upper hand of not contending contrary to food crops (Madson & Gamstedt,
2013). Paper waste can also be addressed with the Philippines consuming 1.6
million metric tons of paper in the year 2014 while producing 10.3 thousand
metric tons per day of paper waste per day with only 10% of it recycled
(Geganto, 2015). Despite the abundance of research on different plant fibers
used as an alternative to wood fiber, less attention has been paid to the
application of Abaca (Musa textilis) fibers
as a reinforcement to paper. It is not clear whether the use   of Abaca fibers being an aggregate to paper
with the inclusion of recycled paper is effective. Thus, it is beneficial to
carry out an analysis on the possibility of Abaca fibers with recycled paper to
create paper as a substitute for the traditional wood fibers used in paper
production in the Philippines.

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            The
usage of wood fibers in paper as pulp has been linked to deforestation and consumption
of trees. Though wood fibers have a lower cost compared to plant fibers (Madsen
& Gamstedt, 2013), in return more trees are required and used up. In the
Philippines, over 1.6 million tons of paper is consumed which is relatively low
for the country, the demand increases by 2.5% yearly. The Philippines produced
1.8 million tons of paper last 2014 (Geganto, 2015) where most of which are
produced from wood fibers. These wood fibers are acquired from naturally
occurring forests or controlled pulp plantations. Deforestation in the
Philippines has been gradually increasing since the early 2000s with the
reduction of 51,000 hectares per year (Hansen et. al., 2013). The loss of trees
will not only greatly affect the paper production industry but also other
industries, ecologically and environmentally.

Twenty-seven local
governments in the Philippines have been evidently starting enforcing city
ordinances that promote the use of paper bags instead of plastic bags
(Department of Science and Technology, 2012). However, it is noticeable that
cashiers in groceries double up the use of paper bags to compensate the
strength needed of the paper bags. It is also seen that some supermarkets are
still using plastic bags for frozen and wet goods instead of plastic. This is
because paper bags are weak in terms of weight capacity (Muthu, 2013). Compared
to the 35-kilogram capacity of plastic bags, paper bags can only hold a maximum
of 8 kilograms for 5 minutes (Muthu, 2013). Department of Science and
Technology Secretary Montejo (2012) explained that the use of plastic may have
been reduced but the demand for paper bag has increased as well as for other
paper products. The rise of paper demand leads to the increase of production.

Gordana & Maja (2014) notes that the production of paper bags is more
detrimental to the environment as opposed to the production of polyethylene
bags. World Wildlife Fund for Nature (2015) notes that the process of producing
these paper bags or paper products in general are sources of unwanted logging
which deteriorates forests in return boosts climate change.

            The
Forest Product Research and Development Institute in the Philippines (2012) is
finding a substitute raw materials in paper production from plant fibers
instead of wood fibers. The World Wildlife Fund for Nature (2015) has been
doing numerous promotions and advocacies on the issue of paper and pulp
production such as the promotion of responsible production and use of paper,
interacting with paper producing companies and promotion of the improvement of
pulp plantations. Numerous studies have also developed the use of plant fibers
as pulp instead of wood fiber namely different species of eucalyptus, aquatic
plants, and canola stalks (Dutt & Tyagi, 2011; Aziz, Bidin, Bujang &
Zakaria, 2015; Enayati, Hamzeh, Mirshokraei & Molaii, 2009). There have
been efforts on addressing the problem on the strength of paper bags and the
production of paper products including paper bags but it is not sufficient and
evident.

            It
is of concern to examine different methods of creating paper to reduce the use
of wooden pulp to lessen the impact of the paper producing industry on natural
forests. The production of paper largely relies on the use of wooden fibers as
the main material in paper (Madsen & Gamstedt, 2013). With this, it is
essential to find alternative materials due to the issue of deforestation of
the demand of paper products. The alternative material must not only be
environmentally friendly but also durable. As Muthu (2013) indicates that paper
bag is the weakest packaging material amongst other packaging materials such as
plastic bags. With the Philippines producing over 400,000 bales of Abaca, a
known plant fiber in the country, every year since 2013 (Philippine Fiber
Industry Development Authority, 2017) and with Abaca determined to have “high
tensile strength” (de Souza & d’Almeida, 2014), it may be sufficient to be
used as an aggregate for paper due to the fact that it has been used to create
tea bags and bank notes (Wood & Roberts, 2005). It is also evident that
abaca has been used in creating other composites such as “polymer for
automotive applications” (Kumar, 2014; Kumar 2015). This can be mixed with
shredded paper to utilize paper waste in order reduce and maximize its use.

A considerable amount of
literature has been published on the inclusion of plant fibers to the
reinforcement of paper and as an aggregate.

            Madsen
& Gamstedt (2013) compared and looked into the differences of fiber
cellulose content of wood fiber and fiber from annual plants. The basis of
investigation was the feasibility and the differences of the two types of
fibers. The advantage of annual plant fibers wood was its abundance and
production along with high cellulose content (Madsen & Gamstedt, 2013). It
is then proven by a previous study that canola stalks, a plant fiber, was
suitable for paper making (Enayati, Hamzeh, Molaii & Mirshokraw, 2009).

            Aquatic
plants were later tested for their sustainability handmade paper making (Budin,
Bujang, Bidin, Aziz & Zakaria, 2015). Plants with a short harvest time,
even with low lignin content, are a possible source of fiber. Five species of
aquatic plants were examined for their chemical composition and measurement of
fiber. The results showed that it is possible to use these plants as a source
of fiber for handmade paper making. A study by Ververis (2004) concludes that
plants with high cellulose content and lignin are suitable for the creation of
paper.

            It
is evident that the use of Abaca (Musia textilis) is commonly used to produce high
quality paper pulp production (del Rio, 2006). The lignin content of Abaca is
found to be at 13.2%. The tensile mechanical properties of Abaca were accounted
to be at high strength medium modulus fiber (de’Souza & d’Almeida, 2014).

Hybrid composite of Abaca and manila paper posses very high strength and
hardness as compared to mono fiber composite (Rahul et. al, 2014). Abaca is
also used in producing tea bags, bank notes and specialized paper (Wood and
Roberts, 2005).

Kumar et. al. (2014;2015),
have studies that showed the used of Abaca fiber in composites such as some
used for automotive applications. Natural fibers are said to be one of the
uprising materials in the field of engineering. Abaca as one of the natural
fibers has seen an increase in usage due to its inexpensive and environmentally
friendly charactersitics. The findings displayed that the addition of Abaca to
glass fiber have better performances compared to other composites in the shear
and hardness tests.

Gintings, Mas’ud, Rotiali
& Siagon (2003) explained the feasibility of utilizing sludge and old news
papers with abaca fibers for pulp and paper making. It is evident in Indonesia
that most paper products are produced with wooden fibers. This reliance on wood
as a source for fiber has lead to a significant amount of deforestation in
Indonesia along with illegal logging. The results of the experiment showed that
the mixture of sludge, old newspapers with abaca fibers have potential in the
industry in an attempt to reduce the need for the use of wood originating
fibers.

A study by Muthu et. al.

(2013) assessed the eco-functional characteristics of different shopping bags.

The comparison focused on the bags’ reusability, impact strength and weight
holding capacity. The test results revealed that plastic bags have a better
score in the single use category compared to paper bags while woven bags have
the best score in the reusability category. It was concluded that paper bags
are the weakest among all shopping bags with a bearing capacity of only seven
(7) kilograms in five (5) minutes. (Muthu et. al., 2013). Paper bags are also
found to have a detrimental effect to the nature compared to plastic bags in
the issue of production (Gordana, 2014; Yolanda, 2008) while Muthu, Hu &
Mok (2009) argued that plastic bags have a slightly better impact to the
environment compared to paper bags.

            However,
these studies are challenged by the advantages of wood originating fibers used
by existing paper manufacturers. Wooden fibers are also available at a low cost
which is similar to plant fibers (Madsen & Gamstedt, 2013). Wooden fibers
have better capability in terms of processing due to its short fibers and are
easier to acquire in existing paper and pulp mills (Madsen & Gamstedt,
2013). The source of the wooden fibers, which are trees, are found to not
compete against other crops unlike annual plants that have to be replanted
several times (Madsen & Gamstedt, 2013). Dutt (2011) exerts the use of five
(5) different species of Eucalyptus trees that emphasize the use of wooden
fibers resulting in paper with good strength.

            The
use of plant fibers as pulp in the production of paper has been extensively
studied. However, less attention has been paid to the use of Abaca fibers
incorporated with recycled paper in the creation of paper. The only reported
study to date is by Gintings, Mas’ud, Rotiali & Siagon (2003) focused on
using Abaca fibers with sludge waste and old newsprints to create paper.

Different ratios of the raw materials were used to produce the outputs which
resulted to different qualities that point to potential usage of these raw
materials for paper production. With the Philippines producing over 400,000
bales of Abaca every year since 2013 (Philippine Fiber Industy Development
Authority, 2017) and with Abaca determined to have high tensile strength (de
Souza & d’Almeida, 2014), it may be sufficient to be used as an aggregate
for paper due to the face that it has been used to create tea bags and bank
notes (Wood & Robers, 2005) and it is also evident that Abaca has been used
in creating other composites such as “polymer for automotive applications”
(Kumar, 2014; Kumar 2015).

            In
spite of these early observations, it is not clear whether the use of Abaca
fibers with recycled papers can be used in the production of paper to be formed
into paper bags. It is also still unknown if the produced paper bags will be
able to hold as much as the traditional and currently in used paper bags which
hold 7 kilograms (Muthu et. al., 2013). The question sill remains on the durability
of paper from abaca with recycled paper in comparison with the existing brown
paper bags that most supermarkets use in the country today.

            Hence,
additional studies of the production of paper with the use of abaca are needed
to confirm the effectivity and efficiency of the material as pulp. It is
desirable to carry out experiments on the creation of the paper and paper bags
along with the testing of its quality with importance to weight bearing
capacity. It is of interest to compare existing paper bags to the newly created
Abaca with recycled paper bag.

            In
this study, the researchers evaluate the feasibility of using Abaca fibers as a
replacement of the conventional wood fibers together with recycled paper. This
paper aims to create a paper bag out of the produced paper from Abaca fibers
and waste paper. The creation of the product is an attempt to lessen the use of
paper bags such as doubling them up for strength by creating a stronger paper
bag. The paper bag also addresses the usage of waste paper and the use of plant
fibers as pulp instead of the traditional source of pulp which are trees that
are often linked to deforestation.

This paper introduces a
method on the creation of paper from a plant fiber, specifically Abaca fibers,
that are much easier to produce due to its high harvest compared to wood fibers
(Madison & Kristofer, 2013). 

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