Paper, made from plant fibres, is an integral part of our lives. It has evolved over the years from just a writing surface to a material that touches nearly every aspect of our lives. It is used in printing, media, entertainment, packaging and construction industry-- to name just a few. It is used extensively in school, at workplace, homes and even in restaurants. The world average per capita consumption stood at 59 kg in 2007.
While the credit of inventing the first paper like material, called papyrus goes to the ancient Egyptians, it was the Chinese who first invented and used paper around 105 A.D.
All about paper
Paper is made from plant fibers called cellulose. The cellulose fibres are found in all plant cell walls. The fibers may come from any one of several plant sources such as wood, bamboo, cotton, esparto, hemp, jute, sugar cane, wheat, or rice. Paper can be classified as
- Virgin paper -- This is new paper made from trees - either small trees harvested just for that purpose, or from sawmill scraps left over when larger trees are made into lumber.
- Recycled paper -- Recycled fiber can also serve as a raw material for making paper. Each year, more and more paper is recycled - its fibers used a second, third or fourth time. Recycle fibres can come from used paper, old clothes and other plant based products which have cellulose.
Paper making process
The paper industry divides the entire process of making paper and paper products into two parts.
- The first for the manufacturing of pulp and paper.
- The second for the manufacturing of converted paper products
To make paper, the cellulose is converted into pulp. A mixture of water and fibers is filtered through a fine screen to form a sheet of paper. As the wet sheet is dried, chemical bonds are formed between the molecules in the cellulose fibers to give the paper its strength.
Types of paper
- Paper made from wood -- Almost all of the paper used today is made of wood fibers.
- Paper made from non wood plant fibres -- Specialty papers, like stationery and money, are made from linen, cotton, or other plants.
- Combination of fibres -- Some papers contain a combination of cellulose fibers and synthetics such as latex. Waterproof paper like a mariner's map has latex as a raw material.
- Paper made from synthetic materials -- Some papers are made completely from synthetic materials such as polyolefine. The rugged courier envelope is one such example.
- Writing and printing paper -- These are usually made from fibres sourced from hardwood trees such as oaks and maples as their wood has very short fibers. Though the paper made from them is weaker and can be easily torn, its surface is smoother, and therefore better to write and print on.
- Tough packaging paper -- Fibres sourced from softwood trees such as pine and spruce have wood with long fibers. The paper made from this type of wood is much stronger and is ideal for making products like shipping containers that require superior strength. This paper is rougher, and is not good for writing and printing.
- Thick paper -- The fibres from hardwoods and softwoods can be blended into a single paper to get the right combination of strength, whiteness, writing surface and other characteristics.
Paper and health
People working in pulp and paper factories may be exposed to health and safety hazards due to exposure to chemicals such as reduced sulfur compounds, biological agents such as bacteria or fungi and physical agents such as heat and noise.
Paper and the environment
- Arguments in favour of paper as an eco-friendly resource
- Arguments against paper as a "green" product.
- Deforestation --- Worldwide, enormous tracts of virgin forest are being felled for paper pulp production, contributing to deforestation.
- Contaminating waterways --The paper industry has been a major source of accumulated toxic chemicals in several rivers affecting the marine ecosystem in the nearby areas adversely.
- Toxic wastes -- Many toxic chemicals are used in paper making, especially toxic solvents and chlorine compounds used to bleach and delignify pulp. Additional toxins are used as biocides to prevent bacterial growth in the pulp and finished paper products.
- Air pollution -- Pulp and paper mills are large sources of standard air pollutants, such as carbon dioxide, nitrous oxides, sulfur dioxides, carbon monoxides and particulates. These contribute to ozone warnings, acid rain, global warming and respiratory problems.
- Energy consumption -- Paper making is energy intensive process
- Water Consumption --- Paper making uses a great deal of water, frequently from diminishing ground water supplies.
What can I do?
- Save paper
- Use recycled paper
- Tweak Computer Settings Before Hitting "Print"
- Use Cloth Dinner Napkins
- Shred Used Office Paper for Packaging
- Reuse Paper Bags
- Use biodegradable doggie bags
- Pay bills online
- Use dish towels instead of paper towels
- Aim for a paperless office
- Buy recycled paper
- Print on both sides of the paper
- Recycle paper as a community
- Ask local shopkeepers not to give plastic bags or paper bags, encouraging them to carry their own bags.
- Collect old newspapers and used books and notebooks from your residential area and give it to a recycling plant.
- The paper industry is the 4th largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions among United States manufacturing industries, and contributes 9% of the manufacturing sector's carbon emissions.
- Paper accounts for 25% of landfill waste (and one third of municipal landfill waste).
- If the United States cut office paper use by just 10% it would prevent the emission of 1.6 million tons of greenhouse gases -- the equivalent of taking 280,000 cars off the road.
- Compared to using virgin wood, paper made with 100% recycled content uses 44% less energy, produces 38% less greenhouse gas emissions, 41% less particulate emissions, 50% less wastewater, 49% less solid waste and -- of course -- 100% less wood.
- In 2003, only 48.3% of office paper was recovered for recycling.
- Recovered paper accounts for 37% of the U.S. pulp supply.
- Printing and writing papers use the least amount of recycled content -- just 6%. Tissues use the most, at 45%, and newsprint is not far behind, at 32%.
- Demand for recycled paper will exceed supply by 1.5 million tons of recycled pulp per year within 10 years.
- While the paper industry invests in new recycled newsprint and paper packaging plants in the developing world, almost none of the new printing and writing paper mills use recycled content.
- China, India and the rest of Asia are the fastest growing per-capita users of paper, but they still rank far behind Eastern Europe and Latin America (about 100 pounds per person per year), Australia (about 300 pounds per person per year) and Western Europe (more than 400 pounds per person per year).
- DID YOU KNOW……. PAPER
- 15 Facts About the Paper Industry, Global Warming and the Environment
- Pulp and Paper Mills
- Paper Manufacturing
- Environmental Impacts of the Paper Industry
- How paper is made?
- Paper in our lives
- ↑ [www.forestindustries.fi/tilastopalvelu/Tilastokuviot/Basics/Julkinen-EN/a50Consumption_002.ppt Global paper consumption is growing:Finnish Forest Industries]