Before the invention of paper in China, around 105 AD papyrus was used as a writing material.
It was made from the papyrus plant and since it was easy and cheap to manufacture, it lasted for quite a long while.
Under the Han Dynasty, the paper making industry, perhaps the first in the world began.
Paper was first made using finely chopped bark of the mulberry tree, hemp rags, and water, which were mashed flat and then drained of the extra water and sun dried.
The Chinese were the first to use paper, and it took over a thousand years for it to spread to other parts of the world.
Over the centuries paper was made from wood pulp, rice, water plants, cotton, and even old clothes. The main component of paper remained “fibre”.
Today, paper fibre comes from pulpwood logs (wood), and recycled paper products. In fact, most of the paper used today, is a blend of the new, and recycled fibre.
Wood pulp is made from the wood chips of cut down trees. These chips are cooked in chemicals that form the pulp mixture.
This pulp is then washed and bleached, and finally sprayed on to a moving screen in the papermaking machine.
This screen helps to drain most of the extra water, which leaves an even mat of fibres. These are passed through rollers, which take out even more water and press the fibres together more tightly. The final product is a sheet of paper.
The other way of making paper is by recycling paper products. Usually there are collecting sites which collect waste paper, usually from factories, companies, and industries.
This paper is then mixed with water and other chemicals to break it down. It is then chopped up and heated which breaks the strands of cellulose (a type of organic plant matter).
This mixture is called pulp (similar to the pulp made from wood). It is strained to remove any extra glues or plastics and then the mixture is cleaned, de-inked and bleached, and finally mixed with water again.
Now the material is ready to be made into new paper, and undergoes the same system as wood pulp paper making from here on.
Recycling paper has become an extremely profitable business, but it also helps save the environment because fewer trees are being cut.
Another important point is that industrial paper making factories release a lot of waste and pollution into the streams, which are poisonous.
Most environmentalists urge that it is best to try to reuse paper when possible, not to print out or photocopy documents unless important to save the many trees that are lost.
Paper today comes not only in many sizes, shapes, and colours, but also in different textures, and is used in almost every setting, in the world.