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Take a minute to look around the room you are in and notice how many things are made out of paper. There may be books, a few magazines, some printer paper, and perhaps a poster on the wall. Yet, if you consider that each person in the United States uses 749 pounds of paper every year (adding up to a whopping 187 billion pounds per year for the entire population, by far the largest per capita consumption rate of paper for any country in the world), then you realize that paper comes in many more forms than meets the eye.
The fact is, world consumption of paper has grown four hundred percent in the last 40 years. Now nearly 4 billion trees or 35 % of the total trees cut around the world are used in paper industries on every continent. Besides what you can see around you, paper comes in many forms from tissue paper to cardboard packaging, to stereo speakers, to electrical plugs, to home insulation, to the sole inserts in your tennis shoes. In short, paper is everywhere.
So where does it come from? Most people can guess that trees are the staple of any paper product. But did you know that until the middle of the 19th century, the main ingredient of paper was cloth rag? And while trees have since become a vital component in the creation of paper, many manufacturers today are beginning to use recycled waste combined with tree pulp to decrease the number of trees that need to be cut down and keep up with the growing demand for paper. Also, many environmentalists who believe that the world´s forests are being cut down faster than they can grow are pointing to the continued success of wood-free paper made with
other plants such as hemp and a similarly fibrous plant called kenaf.
Following is a brief history of paper along with the details of how the modern industry works and a few suggestions for making paper without cutting down so many trees.
The first paper-like substance was invented by the Egyptians over 6,000 years ago. Papyrus, which is the root of our English word "paper", was made by weaving reeds or other fibrous plants together and pounding
them into a flat sheet. The Greeks and the Romans also used this technique, although some Ancient Greek paper makers were the first to create a kind of parchment paper made out of animal skins. Chances are, Aristotle, Socrates and other Greek philosophers originally wrote their books on the skins of dead cows.
But paper as we know wasn´t made until 105 AD, when a Chinese court official named Tsai Lun mixed mulberry bark and hemp with water and scraps of cotton and linen cloth (i.e. rags). This concoction was mashed into a pulp and pressed into mats that were left in the sun to dry. Rags, as it turns out, would be used as the basis for paper for the next 1700 years.
As the Chinese culture flourished and expanded to the edges of the Asian continent, paper went along with it, first to Korea and Japan and then to the Arab world, which included Egypt and Morocco. .......
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