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Harrelson goes green in Manitoba

Posted on August 31, 2000

Non-wood pulp mill will process hemp waste into paper

Winnipeg, Manitoba — Actor Woody Harrelson has invested two years and hundreds of thousands of dollars in a non-wood pulp mill proposed for Manitoba.

If the project proceeds, it would be the first of its kind in North America.

“It’s looking really positive right now,” Mr. Harrelson said on Tuesday outside the Hotel Fort Garry. “This place is great. You’ve got everything you need, man.”

Mr. Harrelson, Clayton Manness, the Canadian Alliance co-president, and Jeff Golfman, a businessman, have formed Prairie Pulp and Paper Co. and conducted a series of feasibility studies.

Mr. Golfman, founder of Plan-It Recycling and now the head of Dolly Ventures, is a close friend of Mr. Harrelson’s.

“The results are favourable enough that we want to proceed,” Mr. Manness said. “We’ve tried to keep this under wraps for the best part of two years. None of this is a slam-dunk. We’re just on the radar map.”

While much of the money invested was Mr. Harrelson’s, the Manitoba government has also contributed. Last year, the province gave Man Agra Capital Inc., Mr. Manness’s company, $50,000 to study the feasibility of the project. In all, government and other supporters have invested $340,000.

Mr. Harrelson is best known as the dull-witted bartender on television’s Cheers, and he has appeared in several Hollywood films, including The People vs. Larry Flynt and Natural Born Killers. He was in Winnipeg this week for meetings to set up a slate of officers for Prairie Pulp. Those names have not been released.

The mill would use straw from oats, flax, wheat and eventually hemp to make paper.

Mr. Harrelson, an outspoken advocate of hemp cultivation, became interested in the project when the federal government passed a law allowing the growing and harvesting of industrial hemp. The actor was recently acquitted of a marijuana-possession charge laid after he ceremonially planted four hemp seeds to protest a Kentucky state law that considers hemp the same as marijuana.

“His real interest was that trees not be cut down,” said Mr. Manness.

“You’ve got the natural stuff on the ground here,” said Mr. Harrelson. “This can work. It really seems possible.”

While the mill project may some day use hemp, Mr. Manness stresses farmers will need other outlets for their crops.

“We’d only be taking the waste and there’s not enough money for them to dedicate fields just for that,” he said.

Another Manitoba company already uses straw in an innovative manner. The $142-million Isobord strawboard manufacturing plant in Elie uses shredded, pressed straw in place of wood chips to make particle board.

During the Prairie Pulp feasibility studies, straw from Mr. Manness’s farm was shipped to North Carolina to see if it could be used to produce paper. Scientists had to ensure the correct properties were present, Mr. Manness said.

While the project proposes to begin producing pulp, Mr. Manness said the eventual goal is to make uncoated paper, the sort that can be used in fax machines.

The trio plan to spend close to $3-million on the next phase, hiring engineers and beginning the design process. If that goes well, a $400-million to $700-million mill is another two or three years away.

Mr. Manness said money would come from financial players in Toronto and New York, and from “well-heeled individuals” in the environmental community.

Mr. Harrelson was staying at the Fort Garry where the national Liberal caucus is meeting.

“I thought maybe the cameras were for me,” he joked after moving through the crowded lobby. “Your prime minister is going to be here, right?”

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