The use of paper can be traced back to 300 BC to the Egyptian who used papyrus and the inner bark of trees, but paper as we know it was invented in 105 A.D. by a Chinese court official named Ts’aiLun. However, recent evidence suggests that the Chinese may have been making paper from old fishing nets and other materials as early as 200 B.C. (to view a graphic on the history of paper, see: http://www.paperonline.org/uploads/history.pdf )
Paper is one of the most sustainable products as it is made from renewable resources. It is biodegradable and can cycle back as its own source for renewable energy. When wood, one of the raw materials used in paper, is grown in sustainable, managed forests, it ensures healthy growth and prevents deforestation. Over 2 ½ billion trees are planted in the U.S. each year – that’s an average of 4 million new trees planted every day by the forest community. Millions more new trees grow from seeds and sprout naturally. Not only do we grow more trees than we harvest, but over the past 50 years, the volume of trees growing on U.S. forestland has increased by 49%. In 2012, over 65% of the paper used in the United States was recovered for recycling, while the print, paper and mail value from paper supports 8.4 million U.S. jobs.
Paper is extremely versatile and impacts our daily lives in many ways. Listed here are some of the common uses we find for paper
- Culture – paper underpins our cultural heritage, from fine artwork and literary novels, through to award-winning photography
- Food and Beverages – paper and packaging is at the heart of our culinary experience – it filters our coffee, it stop our tea leaves going stale, it contains our fresh fruit juice, it’s a designer box of chocolates or less excitingly, the box containing a frozen meal, for when we don’t have time to make dinner!
- Education – from childhood drawings to high school textbooks, paper helps children learn and teachers teach
- Commerce – paper lets the world do business. Cash, checks and even postage stamps help to ensure that deals get done
- Sanitary and Household – from the thinnest tissue to the most absorbent nappy, paper is an essential product providing comfort and hygiene
- Information, Communications and Advertising – be it via our newspaper, magazine or directories, paper allows us to stay informed in our daily lives (paperonline.org)
- Medicine – paper’s natural properties make it ideal for providing bandages, and dressings which aid the healing process; it has a range of medical applications, from swabs and surgical tapes through to numerous diagnostic products
- Transport and Protection – from the toughest, waterproof and fire-resistant corrugated box through to the unassuming brown paper bag, paper gets it to the destination in one piece
- Business – paper is part and parcel of a busy office environment; without letters, labels and post-its, businesses would soon grind to a halt
The U.S. is the world’s leading producer of paper and paperboard, with over 500 mills in operation. 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. A single piece of paper often contains new fibers as well as fibers which have already been recycled once, twice, or several times before. Papermaking fibers can typically be recycled 5-7 times before they become too short to be recycled again.
Many papers are identified by the content of their materials. Some examples of this would be:
FSC® 100% certified Recycled – Made with 100% postconsumer fibers- no new trees (fiber) is included and it is processed chlorine free
FSC® 80% Mixed Sources – Made with 80% post consumer waste and 20% FSC certified fiber (from well-managed forests and other responsible sources) and is elemental chlorine-free.
International Paper summarizes the difficulty we face today with the increased dependence on electronic devices. ” Paper is truly sustainable, with waste fully recoverable, ready for recycling into new paper. When people use more paper, landowners plant more trees. Electronic devices don’t grow on trees and the electronic industry continues to grow rapidly. Based on the current non-renewable raw materials usage and the escalating energy demands, this growth is unsustainable.”
At R.C. Brayshaw & Company we continue to employ clean, safe and energy efficient technologies to provide communications materials for a sustainable environment.
Cate Stratton, Marketing Solutions Consultant
Sources: paperonline.org, Tappi.org,Two sides.org, IPpaper.com, neenahpaper.com