Why Not Make Paper Out Of Something Other Than Trees?

Why Not Make Paper Out Of Something Other Than Trees?
Future notebook paper?
Not4rthur/Flickr, CC BY-SA

Paper is an important part of modern life. People use it in school, at work, to make artwork and books, to wrap presents and much more. Trees are the most common ingredient for paper these days, but people have been taking notes and creating artworks for a very long time using lots of other kinds of surfaces and materials.

Humans painted pictures on cave walls during the Ice Age. The oldest known drawing, found on a small rock in South Africa, was made 73,000 years ago.

Written language came a long time later. The Sumerians, in what is now Iraq, and the Egyptians used pictures in the first written languages more than 5,000 years ago.

These people etched cuneiform and hieroglyph pictures that formed their languages into rock. They also wrote on slabs of wet clay, using a pen or brush made from a reed. Sometimes they baked these slabs hard in ovens to preserve them.

Ancient Egyptian manuscript written and drawn on papyrus, dating to 1275 B.C.
Ancient Egyptian manuscript written and drawn on papyrus, dating to 1275 B.C.
British Museum

The Egyptians pioneered the first paper. Papyrus came from a 15-foot-tall (4.5 meter) plant of the same name that grew in marshlands along the Nile River. They cut the stalk into thin strips, pressed them together and dried them into the long rolls you can now see preserved in museums. They wrote in ink, which didn’t smudge or blur on this new paper. Papyrus made it easy to carry their writing with them in rolled up scrolls – much easier than carting around heavy clay tablets and rocks.

Wood tablets covered in beeswax became a popular writing material in Greece, Rome and Egypt. Children used them in school as you might use notebooks today. Heating the wax made it easy to erase the writing and reuse the tablets.

The Romans took the next step, making books with papyrus pages. Special manuscripts used pages made of treated calf skin.

In China, ancient writing materials included bone, bronze and wood. But then, a little more than 2,000 years ago, the Chinese invented a different kind of paper. Early on, it was made from the hemp plant, washed and soaked in water until it was soft. Then it was beaten into a gooey pulp with a wooden mallet and smoothed into a flat frame to dry.

It took Europeans another 800 years to finally start making paper. They cut up, soaked and treated linen and cotton rags. A half a century later, in 1690, the first rag-paper mill came to the American Colonies.

This human-made forest is planted with gum tree saplings that will eventually be harvestedThis human-made forest is planted with gum tree saplings that will eventually be harvested. ChrisVanLennepPhoto/iStock via Getty Images

But as people used more and more paper, rags grew scarce. There were more trees than rags, so trees became the raw material. The first U.S. newspaper that was printed on paper made from ground-up wood was the Jan. 14, 1863, edition of the Boston Weekly Journal.

So how do people make paper out of trees today? Loggers cut trees, load them onto trucks and bring them to mills. Machines slice off the bark, and big wood chippers chop the logs into small bits. Those chips are boiled into a soup that looks like toothpaste. To get out any lumps, it is smashed flat, dried and cut up into sheets of paper.

The entire process, from planting a seedling to buying your school notebook, takes a very long time. Just growing the trees takes 10 to 20 years..

Making tons of paper from trees can harm the planet. Humans cut down 80,000 to 160,000 trees around the world every day, and use many of them to make paper. Some of those trees come from tree farms. But loggers also cut down forests for paper, which means that animals and birds lose their homes.

Cutting forests down also contributes to climate change, and paper factories pollute the air. After you throw paper in the trash, a truck takes it to a dump, where it takes six to nine years to decompose.

That’s why recycling is important. It saves a lot of trees, slows climate change and helps protect endangered animals, birds and all creatures that rely on forests for their homes and food.

Did you know that it takes 24 trees to make one ton of paper, which is about 200,000 sheets? You may use a piece of paper one or two times, but it can be recycled five to seven times. Recycling one ton of paper saves 17 trees. If it’s recycled seven times, it saves 117 trees.

So if paper isn’t good for the environment, why don’t people write on something else? The answer: They do. With computers, tablets and cellphones, people use much less paper than in the past. Maybe a day will come when we won’t use paper at all – or will save it for very special books and artworks.

About The Author

Beverly Law, Professor Emeritus of Global Change Biology and Terrestrial Systems Science, Oregon State University

Related Books

 

The Human Swarm: How Our Societies Arise, Thrive, and Fall

0465055680by Mark W. Moffett
If a chimpanzee ventures into the territory of a different group, it will almost certainly be killed. But a New Yorker can fly to Los Angeles--or Borneo--with very little fear. Psychologists have done little to explain this: for years, they have held that our biology puts a hard upper limit--about 150 people--on the size of our social groups. But human societies are in fact vastly larger. How do we manage--by and large--to get along with each other? In this paradigm-shattering book, biologist Mark W. Moffett draws on findings in psychology, sociology and anthropology to explain the social adaptations that bind societies. He explores how the tension between identity and anonymity defines how societies develop, function, and fail. Surpassing Guns, Germs, and Steel and Sapiens, The Human Swarm reveals how mankind created sprawling civilizations of unrivaled complexity--and what it will take to sustain them.   Available On Amazon

 

Environment: The Science Behind the Stories

by Jay H. Withgott, Matthew Laposata
0134204883Environment: The Science behind the Stories is a best seller for the introductory environmental science course known for its student-friendly narrative style, its integration of real stories and case studies, and its presentation of the latest science and research. The 6th Edition features new opportunities to help students see connections between integrated case studies and the science in each chapter, and provides them with opportunities to apply the scientific process to environmental concerns. Available On Amazon

 

Feasible Planet: A guide to more sustainable living

by Ken Kroes
0995847045Are you concerned about the state of our planet and hope that governments and corporations will find a sustainable way for us to live? If you do not think about it too hard, that may work, but will it? Left on their own, with drivers of popularity and profits, I am not too convinced that it will. The missing part of this equation is you and me. Individuals who believe that corporations and governments can do better. Individuals who believe that through action, we can buy a bit more time to develop and implement solutions to our critical issues. Available On Amazon

 

From The Publisher:
Purchases on Amazon go to defray the cost of bringing you InnerSelf.com, MightyNatural.com, and ClimateImpactNews.com at no cost and without advertisers that track your browsing habits. Even if you click on a link but don't buy these selected products, anything else you buy in that same visit on Amazon pays us a small commission. There is no additional cost to you, so please contribute to the effort. You can also use this link to use to Amazon at any time so you can help support our efforts.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.
 


 Get The Latest By Email

Weekly Magazine Daily Inspiration

You May Also Like

INNERSELF VOICES

picutre of varius tools with a DIY sticker
Who Can Fix Your Life?
by Marie T. Russell
Many of us were raised on Fairy Tales...where Prince Charming rushed in to the rescue, the fairy…
transparent view of the upper body with rays of bring light
Miracles and Remissions using Attunement with the Body
by Ewald Kliegel
Our body is like an orchestra in which the organs play the symphony of life with the greatest…
lion's face looking out at the stars
Horoscope Current Week: August 2 - 8, 2021
by Pam Younghans
This weekly astrological journal is based on planetary influences, and offers perspectives and…
silhouette of a girl high on a swing at dusk over looking a foggy lake
Experiencing Elemental Beings: Truth or Fantasy?
by Thomas Mayer
How do you experience elemental beings? Can you consciously make it happen? And how do you…
group of people riding the rapids in a raft
The Power of Powerlessness: Riding the Rapids of Life
by Barry Vissell
What really works is for me to accept my powerlessness, my helplessness, that I really have very…
Observations From Nova Scotia To Florida And Back
Observations from Nova Scotia to Florida and Back
by Robert Jennings, Innerself.com
Nova Scotia is a Canadian province of around 1,000,000 people and our home county in Florida has…
How To Ensure That "Luck" Is On Your Side
How To Ensure That "Luck" Is On Your Side
by Marie T. Russell
"He's so lucky! She always wins! I'm just not lucky!" Do these statements sound familiar? Have they…
face of woman floating in water
How To Develop Courage and Move Out of Your Comfort Zone
by Peter Ruppert
Courage is not about being fearless in the face of a scary situation. It is the willingness to move…

MOST READ

hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil image of children
Death Denial: Is No News Good News?
by Margaret Coberly, Ph.D., R.N.
Most people are so strongly habituated to death denial that when death appears they are caught…
Having The Courage To Live Life and Ask For What You Need Or Want.
Having The Courage To Live Life and Ask For What You Need Or Want
by Amy Fish
You need to have the courage to live life. This includes learn­ing to ask for what you need or…
How Living On The Coast Is Linked To Poor Health
How Living On The Coast Is Linked To Poor Health
by Jackie Cassell, Professor of Primary Care Epidemiology, Honorary Consultant in Public Health, Brighton and Sussex Medical School
The precarious economies of many traditional seaside towns have declined still further since the…
image of the planet Jupiter on the skyline of a rocky ocean shore
Is Jupiter a Planet of Hope or a Planet of Discontent?
by Steven Forrest and Jeffrey Wolf Green
In the American dream as it's currently dished up, we try to do two things: make money and lose…
test your creativity
Here's how to test your creativity potential
by Frederique Mazerolle, McGill University
A simple exercise of naming unrelated words and then measuring the semantic distance between them…
two children reading a book with their father
Empathy Starts Early: 5 Australian Picture Books That Celebrate Diversity
by Ping Tian, University of Sydney and Helen Caple, UNSW
Early exposure to diverse story characters, including in ethnicity, gender and ability, helps young…
How To Ensure That "Luck" Is On Your Side
How To Ensure That "Luck" Is On Your Side
by Marie T. Russell
"He's so lucky! She always wins! I'm just not lucky!" Do these statements sound familiar? Have they…
person radiating love and light from their heart out into the universe
Being A Light unto this World: Healing the World by Being Present
by William Yang
A bodhisattva brings healing into this world not out of fear of sickness and death, but out of…

follow InnerSelf on

facebook icontwitter iconyoutube iconinstagram iconpintrest iconrss icon

 Get The Latest By Email

Weekly Magazine Daily Inspiration

AVAILABLE LANGUAGES

enafarzh-CNzh-TWdanltlfifrdeeliwhihuiditjakomsnofaplptroruesswsvthtrukurvi

New Attitudes - New Possibilities

InnerSelf.comClimateImpactNews.com | InnerPower.net
MightyNatural.com | WholisticPolitics.com | InnerSelf Market
Copyright ©1985 - 2021 InnerSelf Publications. All Rights Reserved.