Paper is such a natural part of our daily lives that we can sometimes forget just how much we rely upon this essential, renewable and evolving resource.
Few things in life are as versatile, reliable and practical as paper. Be it a carrier, barrier or filter; be it opaque, translucent or transparent paper supports all manner of activities.
Paper is perhaps best known for its long and illustrious association with the written word. But, of course, it has many other uses and new applications are being discovered all the time....too many to be mentioned here, but just to remind you, there follows a brief mention of some of the more high profile uses of this flexible, limitless material:
- 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, cheques 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
- 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
Paper is an incredibly versatile substance. In eliciting its full potential, papermakers utilise a range of techniques: paper may be impregnated, enamelled, crêped, waterproofed, waxed, glazed, sensitised, bent, folded, crumpled, cut, dissolved, macerated, moulded or embossed.
As papermaking has evolved, paper's properties have been enhanced by colouring, coating and printing. Likewise, new applications have been developed by laminating paper with fabrics, plastics and metals. Within the paper industry, the hundreds of paper products which exist are sometimes grouped into five broad categories: