Paper is among the UK’s most invaluable commodities, used for countless millennia to produce all kinds of written and printed medias. Imagine if you will, a world without paper, a world free from magazines, letters, books, posters, leaflets, and, most shocking of all, toilet paper. Why, it would be back to the dark ages we go.
But the question is where does our paper come from? Without stating the obvious (trees), we want to find out exactly how paper is made, and on such a colossal scale. So without further ado, here we explore the journey our paper takes from forest to printer — with a few fantastically interesting facts about paper thrown in for good measure.
Where Does the UK’s Paper Come From?
Here in the UK, we consume paper on a monumental scale. According to the latest figures from the Confederation of Paper Industries (CPI), Britain used 9 million tonnes of paper in 2015 — that’s the equivalent to forty large cruise ships. So where does it all come from?
The CPI claims that the UK produced 4 million tonnes of paper last year, so you’d be right to assume the other 5 million tonnes must have been imported from abroad — but no. Statistics show that most of our paper actually comes from recycled sources, both at home and from overseas, which is good news for the environment and shows that the long heralded message about increased recycling is beginning to sink in.
Sadly, there’s a but here. While recycling paper has increased exponentially in recent years, so too has our demands for high quality paper. Latest figures from the Forestry Commission reveal that over a half of all trees forested in the UK are used to produce paper and card. Couple this with the fact that one tree only produces 10,000 to 20,000 sheets of paper (depending on its thickness, height etc.), and this demonstrates just how many trees face the chop to satisfy our paper production needs.
So How Do You Make Paper from a Tree?
How is paper made?
Now that we know where the majority of the UK’s paper comes from, it’s time to look at how it’s actually made.
While it’s hard to believe a flimsy sheet of paper can come from something as tall and strong as a tree, the journey of a sheet of paper starts with a natural fibre called cellulose. Cellulose is thin fibre stuck together with natural glue called lignin. When lignin is removed, and these fibres are separated, the production of paper can begin.
Cellulose wood fibres are mixed with water, chemicals and a splash of natural lignin to create pulp; a watery soup which acts as the bare bones of the paper making process.
Depending on how the pulp is formed will determine the strength and quality of the paper. Mechanical pulping creates fibrous pulp that’s used mainly for weak paper, whilst chemical pulping is more suited to creating high quality printing papers.
Once the pulp is ready, and it has been dyed to suit the required paper type (normally white or cream), the paper fibres need to be separated from the water. To do this, manufacturers spray the pulp at a mesh screen to create a mat of paper fibre. This is then dried using heated rollers, which also compress the fibres, increasing its surface area in the process.
After this, the raw paper is sprayed with a series of chemicals to make it stronger, or to coat it with a special texture or surface, such as a glossy or matt finish. Trimming and wrapping follows, and the paper is ready to ship out.
Interesting Facts You Never Knew About Paper
So, we know how it’s made and where it comes from. What else do we know about paper? Check out these titillating facts to find out.
• For each tonne of paper recycled, we save 3,000 litres of water
• And enough electricity to power a three bedroom house for a year
• One third of household waste we throw away is paper based
• 7 million trees are cut down each year to make disposable paper nappies
• Printer paper is incredibly durable, and capable of being recycled up to 6 times
• In the UK, we send 5 million tonnes of paper to landfill every year — that’s equivalent to 2,000 trucks
At TonerGiant we stock a huge selection of high quality printer papers, all of which come from sustainable sources. To browse our complete selection of affordable printer paper, please click here or call us on 0845 365 3605.
Alternatively to find out more about our eco-friendly ink and toner cartridge recycling service, click here.