Shandong Tranlin Will Rob American Soil of Carbon

Shandong Tranlin, a Chinese company, wants to buy crop residues to make paper products.

Farmers may be selling the most important ingredient for soil health to Shandong Tranlin.

Healthy soil has soil organic matter above three percent.

Healthy soil has organic matter above three percent.  Crop residues returned to the soil help achieve this.

Shandong Tranlin, a multi-national, Chinese company, operates as Vastly in the US.  They are building a $2 billion paper making plant in Chesterfield County, Virginia that will make paper products from agricultural “waste products”.  It will be the largest Chinese “greenfield” investment in the United States.

Shandong Tranlin makes paper products such as plates, cups, and bowls that are not bleached.  They are more biodegradable than traditional paper products made from the pulp of trees.  The process to make their products, they claim, is less hazardous to the environment than the process used to make paper from trees.

To make their paper products they plan to buy agricultural “waste products” from Virginia to Kansas.

Crop Residue is NOT a Waste Product

These so-called “waste products” are not waste products at all.  They are the stalks and straw that remains after harvesting grain such as corn, wheat, rye, and soybeans.  In agriculture, we call them “crop residues”.  The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service has a national standard for using crop residues to build soil health.  This Best Management Practice is called “Crop Residue Management”.

Crop Residue is More Valuable in the Soil than in a Paper Plate

Crop residues are rich in carbon, which is needed to improve soil health.  Removing this carbon-rich residue robs the soil of its health and leaves the land bare and vulnerable to the effects of weather.  I believe crop residues are more valuable in and on the land than in a paper plate.

Read my OPED piece , “Waste Not: Selling Carbon-Rich Residue Will Short Change Soil”.  It was distributed by the Bay Journal News Service on 1/25/2017.

Rye residue is more valuable on the land than in a paper plate made by Shandong Tranlin.

Corn planted into the crop residue of rye builds soil health, reduces soil erosion and retains soil moisture.

Carbon-rich crop residues help make soil organic matter.  This organic matter is important for releasing nutrients for plants to grow and retaining soil moisture.  It’s the “glue” that holds soil particles together.

Selling crop residue to Shangong Tranlin will leave land bare and vulnerable to the effects of weather.

Baling up soybean stalks leaves land vulnerable to the affects of weather.  The average annual soil loss on this field is greater than 20 tons per acre per year.

Crop Residue Helps Reduce Soil Erosion

Raindrops falling on bare soil have the energy to dislodge soil particles.  Crop residue left on the land disappates this energy.  Once soil particles are dislodged they begin their gravitational journey to the nearest ditch or stream.  These soil particles carry with them anything attached to them such as fertilizer and pesticides; therefore, polluting our streams.

170,000 Pounds of Nitrogen Dumped annually into the James River

Their paper making processes will result in lots of wastewater being discharged into the James River.  Their annual discharge, according to Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) records will have an estimated 170,000 pounds of nitrogen in it (Bay Journal 1/22/2017).

This new discharge comes at a time when all the wastewater discharge facilities in the James River watershed are expected to reduce nitrogen discharges by 15 percent to meet pollution reduction goals established in Virginia’s Watershed Improvement Plan.

Shandong Tranlin Must Get a Wastewater Discharge Permit

Their wastewater discharge requires a permit from DEQ.  In order to obtain this permit, Shandong Tranlin must buy nutrient credits on the open market.  The Bay Journal‘s Whitney Pipkin wrote an excellent article about it.  The James River is already at its limit for pollution discharges and Shandong Tranlin wants to add pollution.  How will this work when we are legally on a path to reduce pollution discharges?

Environmental Trade-Offs?

So, maybe the Chinese paper product making process is less environmentally damaging than using trees but, before we sell our soil health to make brown paper plates we must weigh the cost of less carbon in the soil and more pollution in the James River and the Chesapeake Bay.

Raindrops have explosive energy that can easily dislodge exposed soil.

Raindrops have explosive energy that can easily dislodge exposed soil.  Soil must be covered with crop residue to protect it from these erosive forces.






  1. Dear Bobby, ZERO 0 nata, zip, none, no – e coli – THAT IS AMAZING! Congratulations sir, very very impressive and credit due to your management style, persistence, determination and dedication to the care of our water and environment. This is more commendable than you’ll probably ever get credit for, but I proud to know you man – you walk the talk.

    On the negative side we continue to fulfill the prophecy of the Russian that once said, they could count on the capitalist to sell them the rope they hang us with, I paraphrase, but you know what I mean. How on earth we can deplete our own natural resources for the short term profits of a foreign investor is beyond short sighted by being completely blind to our actions. Soil, in particular – topsoil – is the thin living skin of our earth and maybe the single most important feature in the survival of humans on this planet. Any removal of contributions to organic matter content will be directly related to loss of soil and any natural fertility. Somehow organic principles are still seen as niche and a fad minority technique to address human needs. Those organic principles include diversity of crops and demands, more planning and management, human cultural input instead of artificial chemical inputs – meaning making people and culture worth money instead of oil by products being the greatest cost of production. The demand for raw materials may expand to whole tree chipping which would spread the cancer of extraction to our forests under the guise of trees being a renewable resource. We know a forest is a living interdependent ecosystem, hardly as simple as a renewable “tree”. This entire prospective is disturbing in many ways.

    Keep up the good fight water protector, we need more of you now – than ever.

  2. David Fuller says:

    Great ecoli result, Bobby. Have to think a lot of it has migrated to the White House. Thanks for keeping the faith and keeping us vigilant. David

  3. Anne Nielsen says:

    Bobby, what great news that E.coli levels have bottomed out! I hope it is a result of your upstream neighbor seeing the light, and not simply that cows don’t like standing in cold water.

    The Shangdong plant proposal is a rough one. It’s good that they don’t bleach their paper products as that is a substantial threat in paper making; it would not have occurred to most of us that using crop residue for paper making isn’t a sustainable practice. You’ve had your nose in the dirt long enough to know! Very good information, beautifully presented. You get better at this all the time. Wow do we need you now. Anne

  4. Roger Montague says:

    I’m accused quite often of seeing the cup as half empty. The view expressed below may be more support for that position. It’s great to have business development in VA and elsewhere. However I’m afraid that for the forseeable future the zeal for business development will far out pace any zeal for protecting the environment. The concept of unfettered business development also produces the skewed idea that because there is some conservation plan on a farm that the farm is automatically not contributing to down stream pollution. A conservation plan is a great idea only if it is implemented. I have written personally and seen too many conservation plans that were written solely to meet some SCS/NRCS goal and the probable time line for implementation is before the end of God’s lifetime. Conservation plans are great only if implementd. “Greenfield” development is great business bevelopment only if green means protecting our precious natural resources. By definition it does not seem to consider the past work done to protect the environment. Hopefully the cup is half full.

  5. Bill Fleming, PhD says:

    I agree this is very important. I’d taken 4 online classes in soil microbiology from Dr. Elaine Ingham and have an even greater appreciation for the importance of organic matter. I also talked to people from Virginia Tech and N.C. State and was told that organic matter in our agricultural soils is about 1% now versus probably 30% or more when English settlers cam to our continent. If anything, we need to put together programs to put more organic matter into all our soils in order to promote healthy soil biology.

    Note that this particular problem also applies to the taking of wood waste and turning it into wood pellets to be sent to Europe.

    • Bobby Whitescarver says:

      Bill, what a wonderful comment, thank you! Indeed, the soil can hold twice as much carbon as all the plants. We need to pump the soil full of carbon…its the ultimate carbon sink.

  6. Jim Snyder says:

    This is wrong on so many levels. We’ll see what the new President has to say about this and other examples of America selling out to globalist corporations. Why was there no resistance to this deal going through in the first place Bobby? Very disappointed in Virginia politics.

    • Bobby Whitescarver says:

      Jim, always good to hear from you. I am dissapointed as well in the governor on many things. His support came for this papar plant before he knew about the James River being at capacity for pollution and that they would need to buy credits 2:1. One of his faults is knee jerk decisions like this, that brings in money (at a huge cost). Another was his support of the Atlantic coast pipeline. He supported it despite staffs objections. Dominion, the utility behind the pipeline has bought out just about all our politicians including the governor.

  7. Bobby Whitescarver says:

    This from my friend Judy:
    Bobby, I just read about this Friday and was deeply disturbed by the effort of the Governor to have DEQ and DCR find a way to get nutrient offset credits for this plant the Chinese are planning on the James River. My understanding is that the James River nutrient reductions to meet the WIP and Bay TMDL have been secured by the treatment and energy plants already discharging waste into the river. This situation bears watching and more than quiet acceptance. Some facts missing are: Are there fail safe measures in place to be sure there is no net gain in pollution over the James River watershed?, Is the paper and fertilizer for export? What are the overall numbers of increases in employment? The citizens of Virginia don’t really know what they are giving up to allow this foreign transaction to take place. We are not talking about curbing foreign markets, denying Virginia new business opportunities. It is all about water quality, air quality, habitat damage, and a general compromise of the environment that a US company would also have to protect and respect. It doesn’t matter the origin of pollution, it should not be allowed anywhere, anytime, by anyone without taking measures to minimize environmental damage. It is time to address those involved and try to get answers and make suggestions that will ensure that new business upholds standards set in place to protect our resources for the future. Thanks for bringing this situation to a more public forum. Judy Okay ​

  8. Rich Shockey says:

    Thanks for the great information. Riparian buffers do work and you have a great one in the land example.

    As far as the paper plant removing residues, planting cover crops should be a requirement to keep the soil covered 24/7.

  9. Yes to all the good stubble does, for stability and successional biodiversity of micro and macro-organisms. Yes, to keeping it rooted or left in place. Thank you, Bobby, for bringing this to our attention. A toast of good clean water to you.

  10. Marie Majarov, Winchester VA says:

    Bobby, I am a little late in getting to read this posting…but boy an I glad I did! This was excellent learning, I had no idea that companies were engaging in such practices and marketing them as environmentally friendly, UGH! Who needs paper plates anyway? Milan and I are currently reading Thoreau’s Walden for our environmental book club at UVA’s Blandy Experimental near us in Clarke County… gives some great perspective on what is really important and necessary in life.
    Thank you for all that you do!

    • Bobby Whitescarver says:

      Marie, it’s never too late to comment. Thanks for your insight and comment. Wow, Blandy…quite a bit of history there. Do they still have the pit of radioactive material that they lowered American Chestnuts into during the 50’s?

      • Marie Majarov, Winchester VA says:

        Hmm…I hadn’t heard that, but do know who to ask, and now I am curious. The American Chestnut Foundation has 3 research plots at Blandy where they have been working for many years to cross American Chestnunt with a blight resistant chestnut tree and I think they have made significant progress obtaining trees that are more and more American chestnut. Many wonderful activities and significant research going on at Blandy, Our master naturialist chapter is based there. Come visit us and we will give you a tour!

        • Bobby Whitescarver says:

          Marie, I would love to do that! We have an American Chestnut nursery in Nelson County, Lesesne State Forest, that has many surviving American Chestnuts that were irradiated at Blandy.

Speak Your Mind