We got it right the first time. The first paper was created nearly
2000 years ago, and it was made from recycled materials. But, while
the Chinese and Arabs refined papermaking, Europeans were slow to
embrace it. It was not until Gutenberg's invention of the printing
press in the mid-1400s that paper development was recognized as
critical. Then, however, it catalyzed a Renaissance and the shape
of the world as we know it today. (History
The pulp for papermaking can be made from all sorts of organic
materials. Linen and cotton rags were the preferred source for centuries,
but straw, bamboo, hemp, grasses, crops and crop residues were important
sources, too, and continue to be in many parts of the world today.
Processes for making pulp from trees were not developed until the
mid-1800s, about the same time that the first patent was awarded
for deinking wastepaper. While some have worried that deinking might
turn out to be as environmentally damaging as virgin tree-pulping,
it actually provides a positive solution to some of the problems
created by virgin papermaking.
Papermaking is a highly developed technological process. The paper
industry is complex and vast, with a powerful influence on government
policies, resource management and international practices and trade.
Printing and Writing grades, a significant portion of the industry,
are primarily divided into coated and uncoated grades of paper.
(See Paper Grade Descriptions.)
Most paper is not sold directly to purchasers. Distribution
channels depend on whether you're buying in large or small quantities.
Paper merchants representing various mills sell paper to purchasers
who buy in large quantities (primarily printers, retailers, governments
and businesses).Small quantities are sold through office supply
stores, retailers, and mail order businesses.
Every industry has its own buzzwords and unique shoptalk, so we
provide a Glossary of words used on
this website that might be initially confusing.
Consistent Definitions for environmental
contents and processes are critical for actually getting the paper
you think you're buying. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's
content guidelines for federal agencies have been widely adopted
by state and local governments as well as businesses as de facto
national standards for minimum recycled content. Most of the papers
on Conservatree's Environmentally Sound Guide to Printing and Writing
Papers meet these minimum content standards, although there are
Labeling has always been questionable
for recycled and other environmental product, and the Federal Trade
Commission has consistently played it safe rather than providing
leadership on this issue. Therefore, you need to look for specific
words and phrases when relying on labeling.
Fortunately, there are some certification organizations that verify
environmental attributes. While most papers have not been certified,
those that are provide an added guarantee that they will meet your
What kinds of questions do you have?