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Paper is a thin material produced by pressing together moist fibers, typically cellulose pulp derived from wood, rags or grasses, and drying them into flexible sheets.

Paper is a versatile material with many uses. Whilst the most common is for writing and printing upon, it is also widely used as a packaging material, in many cleaning products, in a number of industrial and construction processes, and even as a food ingredient – particularly in Asian cultures.

Paper, and the pulp papermaking process, was said to be developed in China during the early 2nd century AD, possibly as early as the year 105 A.D.,[1] by the Han court eunuch Cai Lun, although the earliest archaeological fragments of paper derive from the 2nd century BC in China.[2]

The modern pulp and paper industry is global, with China leading production and the United States behind it.

Environmental impact of paper Edit

Main article: Environmental impact of paper

The production and use of paper has a number of adverse effects on the environment.

Worldwide consumption of paper has risen by 400% in the past 40 years leading to increase in deforestation, with 35% of harvested trees being used for paper manufacture. Logging of old growth forests accounts for less than 10% of wood pulp,[3] but is one of the most controversial issues.

Paper waste accounts for up to 40% of total waste produced in the United States each year, which adds up to 71.6 million tons of paper waste per year in the United States alone.[4]

Conventional bleaching of wood pulp using elemental chlorine produces and releases into the environment large amounts of chlorinated organic compounds, including chlorinated dioxins.[5] Dioxins are recognized as a persistent environmental pollutant, regulated internationally by the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants. Dioxins are highly toxic, and health effects on humans include reproductive, developmental, immune and hormonal problems. They are known to be carcinogenic. Over 90% of human exposure is through food, primarily meat, dairy, fish and shellfish, as dioxins accumulate in the food chain in the fatty tissue of animals. [6]

Future of paper Edit

Some manufacturers have started using a new, significantly more environmentally friendly alternative to expanded plastic packaging made out of paper, known commercially as paperfoam. The packaging has very similar mechanical properties to some expanded plastic packaging, but is biodegradable and can also be recycled with ordinary paper.[7]

With increasing environmental concerns about synthetic coatings (such as PFOA) and the higher prices of hydrocarbon based petrochemicals, there is a focus on zein (corn protein) as a coating for paper in high grease applications such as popcorn bags.[8]

Also, synthetics such as Tyvek and Teslin have been introduced as printing media as a more durable material than paper.

See also Edit

References and notes Edit

  1. Hogben, Lancelot. "Printing, Paper and Playing Cards". Bennett, Paul A. (ed.) Books and Printing: A Treasury for Typophiles. New York: The World Publishing Company, 1951. pp 15-31. p. 17. & Mann, George. Print: A Manual for Librarians and Students Describing in Detail the History, Methods, and Applications of Printing and Paper Making. London: Grafton & Co., 1952. p. 77
  2. Tsien 1985, p. 38
  3. Script error
  4. Script error
  5. Script error
  6. Script error
  7. PaperFoam Carbon Friendly Packaging
  8. Barrier compositions and articles produced with the compositions cross-reference to related application

Further readingEdit

  • Alexander Monro, The Paper Trail: An Unexpected History of the World's Greatest Invention, Allen Lane, 2014

External links Edit

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