All About Paper

Frequently Asked Questions

Paper Manufacturing

How is wood made into paper?
In the papermaking process, wood is first chipped into small pieces. Then water and heat, and sometimes chemicals, are added to separate the wood into individual fibers. The fiber is mixed with lots of water (and often recycled fiber), and then this pulp slurry is sprayed onto a huge flat wire screen which is moving very quickly through the paper machine. Water drains out, and the fibers bond together. The web of paper is pressed between rolls which squeeze out more water and press it to make a smooth surface. Heated rollers then dry the paper, and the paper is slit into smaller rolls, and sometimes into sheets, and removed from the paper machine.
Does most of the paper manufactured in the U.S. come from whole trees?
No. Over half of the raw material used to make paper in the U.S. comes from recovered paper and the wood waste (such as wood chips and sawdust) left behind from lumber manufacturing.
What is paperboard?

Paperboard is the stiff type of paper often referred to as "cardboard." Paperboard is used in food packaging (such as cereal boxes), and is used to make many other types of products such as shoe boxes, video game boxes, book covers, etc. Click here for more information about paper manufacturing. Paper Clips


Paper Recycling

How do paper recyclers take the ink out of paper?

During the paper recycling process, ink is removed from paper in a process called deinking (de-inking). After the recovered paper is chopped up (or pulped), and mixed with water to make a pulp slurry, it is put through a series of washing and/or flotation deinking processes in which water and/or soap-like chemicals called surfactants remove the ink from the paper.
What happens to the ink that's removed?
Along with clay, short fibers, and other materials removed during the deinking process, ink that is removed from recycled pulp can be burned to generate energy to run the mill, or sold to make such useful materials as compost or gravel for roads.
How many times can a piece of paper be recycled?
A single piece of paper may contain new fibers as well as fibers which have already been recycled once, twice, or several times. Papermaking fibers can typically be recycled 5-7 times before they become too short to be recycled again.
Why does paper need to be sorted before it's recycled?
Successful recycling requires clean recovered paper which is free of contaminants such as food, plastic, metal, and other trash. Contaminated paper can introduce impurities and bacteria into the recycling process. Furthermore, different grades of paper - corrugated boxes, newspapers, and office paper - must be kept separate, because the different grades of recovered paper are used to make particular types of recycled paper products.
Will recycling paper help save the tropical rain forests?
The trees that grow in the tropical rain forests are rarely harvested to make paper. The deforestation occurring in the tropical rain forests is mainly due to population pressure. In the world's under-developed nations, more than 90 percent of the deforestation occurs because of the demand for increased agricultural land and/or firewood.
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How Is Paper Recycled? | Why Recycle?


Trees and Forests

Why do leaves change color in the fall?

Leaves contain pigments of various colors all through the year, but most of the year the yellows and oranges are masked by great amounts of green coloring from the abundance of chlorophyll contained in the leaves. In the fall, when the temperatures change and the length of daylight decreases, leaves stop their food-making process, and their chlorophyll, now unused, begins to break down. The green color disappears, and the yellows and oranges already present in the leaves become visible. At the same time, other chemical changes occur within the leaves which cause red pigments to develop.
Are we running out of trees in the U.S.?
No; in fact, there are more trees in the U.S. today than there were 70 years ago.
What is the difference between a national forest and a national park?
There is a big difference between the two. By law, national forests are working forests, set up by the U.S. Congress in the late 1800s to provide the nation with a continuous source of raw materials for wood products. At the same time, they are also used to provide wildlife habitat and for recreation. By contrast, national parks, like Yellowstone, Glacier, Rocky Mountain, and Yosemite, are intentionally set aside for non-commercial uses (such as recreation) and are not managed for resource production.
How many trees are planted each year in the U.S.?
Over 2 billion trees are planted in the U.S. each year. The forest community plants over 1 billion of these trees; that's an average of 4 million new trees planted every day by the forest community. Millions more trees regrow from seeds and sprout naturally.
Are we cutting down more trees in the U.S. than we're planting?
No. In fact, forest growth has exceeded harvests since the 1940s.
What makes a forest "old growth"?
Old growth is generally defined as trees 200 years of age or older. There are 13.2 million acres of old growth in the U.S. today. The vast majority of these trees will remain in their natural condition and will never be harvested due to legal and regulatory prohibitions on logging, road building, and even fire fighting.
What percentage of the world's wood is used each year to make paper?
Only about 17% of the 3.3 billion cubic meters of wood consumed worldwide each year is for papermaking, and much of this wood is in the form of wood chips and other residue left behind from sawmill operations. Over half of the wood harvested in the world is used for fuel, mostly for cooking and domestic heating.
Does cutting down trees for papermaking lead to deforestation?
No. Deforestation is the permanent clearing of trees for purposes such as creating farmland and pasture land, for commercial and residential development, or for any other use for which trees are cut and not allowed to grow back. Paper companies and others in the forest products industry are actively reforesting. They not only allow trees to grow back, they actually encourage new growth by replanting and caring for new trees, and by creating forest land in areas where it previously did not exist. Unfortunately, deforestation is occurring in many parts of the world, especially in the tropics. This deforestation is mainly due to population pressure. In most of these cases, forests are cut down and burned for domestic fuel (heating homes and cooking) or to clear land for farming.
How much of a harvested tree is actually used? Is any part wasted?
The forest products industry has found uses for almost every part of a tree, so virtually all of the tree is used. For instance, lumber and building products can be made from the trunk, primarily from large trees whose diameters are greater than 8". The remaining wood is recovered in the form of trimmings and wood chips, and is used to make paper. The natural chemicals within the wood chips are recovered and made into useful products such as turpentine, plastics, food flavorings, and photographic film. The bark of the tree is ground or chipped to make garden mulch, or it can be burned in a furnace to generate energy to run a paper mill. Leaves, needles, and small branches are generally left in the forest to replenish the soil by adding valuable organic matter. This also helps to hold water and prevent excessive run-off on the forest floor.
Click here for more information about trees and forests.
Are We Running Out of Trees? | How Are Trees Grown for Paper?
What's in a Tree? | How Much Paper can be Made from a Tree?


Paper Industry Statistics

How much paper do Americans use in a year?

Every year, Americans use more than 90 million short tons of paper and paperboard. That's an average of 700 pounds of paper products per person each year. Every year in America, more than 2 billion books, 350 million magazines, and 24 billion newspapers are published.
How many paper mills are there in the United States? In the world?

The U.S. is the world's leading producer of paper and paperboard, with over 500 mills in operation. Worldwide, there are approximately 10,000 paper and paperboard mills in operation.
How much paper and paperboard is made in the U.S.? Worldwide?

Worldwide, about 300 million metric tons of paper and paperboard are produced each year. The U.S. alone produces about 87 million metric tons of paper and paperboard, representing nearly one-third of the world's total production.
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Paper History

When was paper invented?

According to tradition, paper was invented in 105 A.D. by a Chinese court official named Ts'ai Lun. But recent evidence suggests that the Chinese may have been making paper from old fishing nets and other materials as early as 200 B.C.
When was paper first made in the U.S.?
The first paper mill in the U.S. colonies was established in 1690 by William Rittenhouse, a papermaker, William Bradford, a printer, and two wealthy Philadelphia businessmen. The Rittenhouse Mill was built near Germantown, Pennsylvania. Although the mill itself no longer exists, you can still visit the historic site on which the mill was located.

Click here for more information about the history of paper.
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