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Where Does Paper Come From?

Where does paper come from?  Take some time to look around the space in which you are and take note of the number of items that are made from paper.  There will possibly be a few magazines, some books, printing paper and maybe even some wall posters made out of paper.  However, if you are aware that each individual in the United Kingdom utilises in excess of 300 kilograms of paper on a yearly basis, then you know that paper is available in quite a bit more forms than immediately meets the eye.

Global paper consumption has grown by 400 percent over the past 40 years.  Now almost 35 percent or 4 billion trees are used in the paper industries on all of the continents.  In addition to what can be seen around you, paper is available in various forms which include the following:

•             Cardboard Packaging

•             Tissue Paper

•             Stereo Speakers

•             Electrical Plugs

•             Home Insulation

•             Tennis Shoe Sole Inserts

How Does Paper Come About?

The majority of individuals are aware that trees are the main raw material of paper products.  However, fewer people know that cloth rags were the staple ingredient of paper up until the mid 19th Century.  Despite the fact that trees are now an essential element in paper creation, a number of manufacturers are opting to make use of tree pulp, along with recycled waste as a means of decreasing the amount of trees that have to be chopped down to satisfy the ever-increasing demand for paper.  In addition, a number of environmentalists are of the belief that in the global community, the forests are being destroyed quicker than new trees are growing.  As a result, they are recommending the promotion of wood-free paper that is made from plants such as hemp and kenaf, which is similarly fibrous.

The Evolution of Paper

The Egyptians are credited with inventing the earliest paper-like substance more than 6,000 years ago. This substance was referred to as papyrus and it is the root of the English word for paper.  It was made by intertwining reeds or similarly fibrous plants and beating them into a flat sheet.  This technique was used by the Romans and the Greeks as well.  However, paper makers from Ancient Greece were the very first to produce a type of parchment paper that is made from the skins of animal.  There is a great likelihood that Socrates, Aristotle and other notable Greek philosophers penned their books on animal skins originally.

However, paper as it is known today was not created until 105 AD.  Ts’ai Lun, who was a court official in China, mixed hemp and mulberry bark with rags, scraps of cotton and water.  This concoction was beaten into a pulp and then pressed into mats.  After which, they were placed in the sun to dry.  Over the next 1700 years, rags became the main raw material for making paper.

As the culture of the Chinese expanded and flourished beyond the edges of China, paper went along for the ride.  It first went to Korea and then to Japan.  After which it made its way to the Arab world, including Morocco and Egypt.  In 1009 AD, papermaking made its way to Europe via Spain; this is where the very first paper mill in Europe was set up by Arabs near Valencia.

Following that, the French and the Italians became noteworthy paper makers and controlled the European paper industry from AD 1250 to 1470.  The demand for paper to make books grew in 1453 after Johannes Gutenberg from Germany invented the moveable printing press, which was a long way removed from all the printer cartridges that are used by modern home based printer inkjets.  The demand also grew in the 16th Century after the boom in literacy rates.  Paper mills started to pop up all over Europe and finally got to the new world.  In 1690, the state of Philadelphia became home to the first American paper mill.  The increased demand and the rise in paper-making started to take a toll on the raw materials that were used in making paper and manufacturers embarked on finding suitable alternatives. In 1843, pulp or ground wood that was harvested from trees turned into the choice material for paper-makers.

The Modern Paper Industry

Nowadays, approximately 300 million tons of paper is consumed by the world on a yearly basis.  The majority of which is made out of virgin pulp.  However, recycled paper now makes up 38 percent of total fibre supply in the world and plants like kenaf or hemp accounts for 7 percent.

The paper industry has come a very long way from using mulberry bark and rags and has developed into a sophisticated science.  As soon as a tree is chopped down, it is taken to a mill, debarked, chipped into very small fragments and this should answer the question of where does paper come from.

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