Dunder Mifflin who? This B.C. company turns sugar cane into sustainable paper

Social Print is the second most interesting paper company you've ever heard of.

Social Print Paper’s co-founder, Minto Roy

Social Print is the second most interesting paper company you’ve ever heard of

We’ll try not to inundate you with The Office jokes, but how often do you get the chance to write about a paper company that’s doing something cool? Not putting staplers in Jello or hosting a run for an already-cured disease: New Westminster–based Social Print Paper is transforming would-be landfill waste into, you guessed it, paper. 

“Beyond creating a company that makes money, we want to have a bigger social purpose—a larger impact on more important things,” says Minto Roy, who launched Social Print with a co-founder seven years ago. The pair set out to create an eco-friendly product that’s indiscernible from traditional paper—in both quality and price. 

Roy is confident they’ve achieved that goal, but you don’t need to take his word for it. His sugar sheet copy paper has been certified by Canon, Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co. and Ricoh Co., and BCIT and UBC both use it. Grand & Toy, London Drugs and Staples all carry the stuff. 

Roy says Social Print’s paper is indistinguishable from its wood-based counterparts (and that’s a good thing)

The sugar paper is made from the residue waste of sugar cane fibres. After workers harvest the cane (in Cali, Colombia) and strip away the usable bits for alcohols, sugars and biofuels, the waste fibre (called bagasse) would normally be trucked off to the landfill. Social Print turns it into paper, a process that uses less water and emits less carbon than traditional papermaking methods (that deserves a Dundee). It raises the question: why isn’t everyone doing this? 

Bagasse in Cali, Columbia

“I believe if more people were aware, they would rather use paper made out of agricultural fibre waste than cut down a tree,” Roy says. He notes that every day, about 3 million trees are cut down in North America. That’s roughly 1.1 billion annually.

“Our challenge is not just creating awareness—traditional incumbents control every industry supply chain,” Roy adds. “That’s my real fight. We should all have been driving electric vehicles for years, but the oil and gas sector has tremendous apathy, and makes sure that gas stations are everywhere and electric power stations are not. The same thing happens in the pharmaceutical industry and the food industry and the paper industry.” 

It makes sense that Big Tree wouldn’t want the word to get out about affordable alternative practices. “There is still an overwhelming bias, or common belief, that we need to use trees to make paper,” Roy says. “That’s not true.” 

Roy has spoken at local and international conferences about leadership in sustainability. He champions genuine environmental work and challenges companies that would rather get rich than walk the eco-friendly walk. “I think we’ve been blessed with support, with health, with skills and drive—what a waste if all we do is chase money.”