Who Knew that About Paper?

This Thursday, March 6th, Janet McCarthy Grimm from Lindenmeyr,  came and spoke to my Book Production & Design class about paper.

She walked us through the process of making paper. When they start out with a tree they have two choices: ground wood paper  and ground wood free paper.

Ground wood paper includes lignin, which is the ingredient that, as paper gets older, causes paper to get brittle and turn yellow. Ground wood free paper, according to tests, may last 200-400 years. The other main difference between these two types of paper is that ground wood paper uses most of the tree. Ground wood free paper only uses about 50% of the tree, making it more expensive to make. Lignins are broken down chemically during the manufacturing process.

The other important thing to know about paper manufacturing is that hard wood and soft wood are not all mixed together – they each get added at different parts of the process.

For me, the most interesting part of what Janet said was how big of a market paper is for the US economy. Few other markets in the world offer as high a quality of paper as we do. Paper is a major exports. The problem is that few foreign manufacturers pay adequate attention to keeping hardwood and softwood separate. This results in a less dependable quality of paper.

Janet’s other major point  was about recycling. Ground wood free paper and ground wood paper aren’t separated out during the recycling process. This limits the quality of paper that can be made from recycled paper products. Newspapers, sticky notes, staples and cheap paper products are mixed in with paper that is ground wood free – meaning that the recycled paper is NOT ground wood free; it also mixes hardwood and softwood – again creating a lower quality paper.

The ‘best’ part is our government – companies don’t receive any benefits for recycling paper products not sold to consumers. So all those books that a publishing company has sitting in it’s warehouse, that it doesn’t sell … there is no encouragement for companies to recycle them.

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3 Comments on “Who Knew that About Paper?”

  1. endithinks Says:

    Very interesting post. Are there no incentives for a company to recycle at all or just non sold materials?

  2. mbreau Says:

    I believe it’s just on non sold materials; at least that’s what Janet said when she came to talk to us.

  3. Danielle T. Says:

    That’s crazy! Here I am thinking all unused paper gets recycled…guess I’ve been living in the dark all this time. I think it’s a bit disgraceful that there’s no way to recycle most of that stuff!


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