All About Paper

Paper Clips: Online Slide Show

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The pulp and paper industry is one of the most important industries in the world. It supplies an essential product - paper - to over 5 billion people worldwide. But most people don't know a lot about the industry. Today we'll take a look at where paper comes from, and how it is made, and I think you will find that the paper industry is one of the most fascinating industries around. There are so many interesting things to tell you about paper, it's hard to know where to begin! I guess the best place to start is the beginning... Back in 200 B.C.

This is when experts now believe paper was first made. New evidence shows that the Chinese used old chopped-up fishing nets to make the world's very first paper. Three hundred years later, around 100 A.D., a Chinese scholar and government official named Ts'ai Lun made paper out of tree bark and scraps of linen and hemp. Because he documented his invention, Ts'ai Lun is generally known as the man who "invented" paper.

The art of papermaking was kept secret in China for centuries. It was not until 793 A.D. that paper was made outside the Orient. The process slowly spread through Africa and Europe in the 10th century, and finally reached England around 1494, two years after Columbus sailed to America.

Finally, in 1690, the first U.S. paper mill was built at Germantown, Pennsylvania by William Rittenhouse. The Rittenhouse mill made about 100 pounds of paper a day. At this time, paper was made by hand from old cotton and linen rags, a slow and labor-intensive process. As the demand for paper grew, it became harder and harder to find enough old rags to meet the demand. It wasn't until the late 1860s that Americans first began making paper from wood.

Paper - Then and Now
In the year 1900, the U.S. Paper industry produced an estimated 14 thousand tons of paper a day. Today's U.S. Paper industry produces over 250 thousand tons of paper and paperboard every day. Every year, each man, woman, and child in America uses about 700 pounds of paper. And over 350 million magazines, two billion books,, and 24 billion newspapers are published in America every year.

When you think of paper products, you probably think of things like newspapers, notebooks, magazines, and posters. But about 5,000 other products are also made of paper and papermaking by-products. Can you think of any?

Board games, candy wrappers, money, microwave packaging - even your laminated desk top - are all examples of products made from paper.

Pulp chemicals products

The wood products industry has found uses for every part of a tree. In fact, nearly 100% of a harvested tree is used for some purpose.
Many important products are made from papermaking byproducts These are the natural chemicals, such as resins, which are contained in wood. This picture shows just a few of the many products made with pulp chemicals.

Cellulose fiber
Paper is made from natural fibers called cellulose. The primary source of cellulose in the U.S. today is wood. Many types of wood can be used to make paper. The two main types are hardwood such as oak, and softwood, such as pine. This slide shows a combination of hardwood and softwood fibers.

Softwood fibers are over twice as long as hardwood fibers. In general, the longer the fiber, the stronger the paper will be. Therefore, softwood fibers are best used for paper or paperboard which requires strength, such as grocery bags and boxes. Short fibers, on the other hand, help make paper smooth. A blend of hardwood and softwood fiber is ideal for making printing and writing paper, which needs to be both strong and smooth.

Did you know that other plants besides trees are used to make paper?

Non-wood fiber
Non-wood plants such as straw, cotton, kenaf, and bamboo are sometimes used to make paper. In countries such as India which do not have an abundant supply of trees, these plants are a good alternate source of fiber.

Recovered paper
Another source of fiber for papermaking is recovered paper collected for recycling. Recovered paper is a great source of fiber because it is readily available and easily recycled. And, recycling diverts wastepaper from landfills, saving valuable landfill space. Over 40% of the paper which is manufactured in the U. S. today is recovered for recycling by the paper industry.

But recycling will never entirely replace using trees for papermaking. One reason is that there is simply not enough recovered paper to meet the world's demand. Some paper is too contaminated to be reused. Plus, fibers can only be recycled five to seven times before they become too short and weak to be used in papermaking. In time, recycled fibers become so short that they wash out of the pulp during the recycling process.

So How is Paper Made? from fiber? Let's take a look.

First, wood chips or recovered paper are combined with water and sometimes chemicals and "cooked" until the cellulose fibers separate from each other. This mushy solution of water and fiber is called pulp. This picture shows a handful of dry pulp. Sometimes, fillers and additives are added to the pulp to make the finished paper more glossy, absorbent, or water resistant.

The paper machine
Watery pulp is sprayed from a huge vat called a headbox onto a giant plastic screen which is moving quickly around the front end of the paper machine. The fibers in the pulp bond to each other and form a watery sheet of paper. As the pulp is carried along the screen, water begins to drain out. The sheet of paper is then pressed between a series of felt-covered and heated rollers to remove more water and to make the paper smooth and dry.

The finished roll of paper
A finished roll of paper can measure up to 30 feet long and weigh as much as 20 tons! The rolls of paper are cut into smaller rolls, and are then ready to be converted into paper products like boxes, books, and magazines.

A Sustainable Industry

So does all this papermaking mean we're running out of trees? Absolutely not! Most people don't realize that much of the raw material used to make paper actually comes from sawdust and wood chips left behind by lumber manufacturing.

When timber companies do harvest trees for paper, they do not just cut them down and leave the land bare. That wouldn't make sense. Timber companies need trees to keep their companies in business.

Managed timberlands
Most trees used for paper come from forests called managed timberlands. Timber companies practice sustainable forestry to manage these timberlands by replanting more trees than they harvest. Today, two new trees are planted for every one tree harvested in the United States.

Some managed timberlands are tree farms. A tree farm is much like a garden, where trees are planted and harvested over and over again. This cycle can go on forever, so that we will never "run out" of trees. In fact, many forests might not exist at all if trees weren't planted and harvested by industry.

These sustainable forestry practices ensure that we will always have plenty of trees - and paper - to enjoy - today and for years to come.

Environmental stewardship
The forest products industry is deeply committed to protecting our environment. The industry has worked for years with federal and state governments to ensure the cleanliness of the air and water in paper mill communities. Every year, the forest products industry spends more than $1 billion on environmental research, equipment, and technology.

People in Paper
People with all kinds of interests and skills are part of the paper industry. Some work at companies which manufacture pulp, paper and paperboard. Others work to convert the finished paper and paperboard into products such as boxes and food packaging.

Still others manufacture the equipment, chemicals, and computer programs that are used at manufacturing facilities.


There are forestry professionals who are responsible for caring for trees before and after they are planted.

And there are people who do research to develop new and improved products and papermaking processes.


Today, approximately 700,000 people are employed by the paper and related industries in the United States.

I think you will agree that paper is an essential part of all of our lives. The paper industry is dedicated to providing quality products while protecting our environment and natural resources. It is truly one the world's greatest industries.



We would like to thank the following for providing slides for this presentation:

Consolidated Papers Inc.
Georgia-Pacific Corporation
Robert C. Williams American Museum of Papermaking
USDA Forest Products Lab
Valmet Inc.


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