What is paper ?

Paper is an incredibly versatile substance made from naturally occurring plant fibres called cellulose. Originally derived from cloth rags and grasses, paper is now predominantly made with wood (in Europe, non-wood based pulp accounts for just 1.3% of pulp production).

From the finest quality paper through to the thickest, strongest corrugated carton, the manufacturing process for this renewable resource is the same: the wood must first be shredded and mixed with water to make pulp. The pulp is then refined, cleaned and agitated before being pumped onto a moving screen or mesh. As the pulp travels along the screen, excess water is drained away and recycled. A paper sheet made from interlocking cellulose fibres begins to form. As it moves through the papermaking machine it is pressed between huge rollers to extract water and subsequently through heated rollers to remove any remaining water. Once the paper has been dried and pressed and depending upon its end use, it may be finished with coatings or other additives which ensure uniform smoothness and thickness.

Paper is all around us. It is difficult to provide a definitive answer to the question, "what is paper?" as its forms and properties are so diverse.

Where to start? Even if one has more noble pretensions than the other, an esteemed literary manuscript and the humble egg box are both equally well served by the paper from which they are made.

Paper products have a vast range of useful applications - it can be made soft and delicate as the lightest tissue or strong and tough enough to be used as a construction material. And this ubiquitous substance continues to reveal new attributes: paper can be treated and made fire-resistant and it can even be waterproofed and used in boat hulls.

Driven by ongoing innovation in the paper industry, the uses of this infinite natural resource are perhaps only limited by our imaginations.

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