Look at this sheet of paper. Closer. And closer. What do you see?
You probably see a sheet of perfect, white paper, covered in thousands of tiny ink letters. Have you ever wondered the effect that this has on the earth, with the processes you don't see? Surely you don’t see the pollution and deforestation caused by mass produced paper. Paper created in mill factories has an unfavorable impact on the environment. Entire sections of forests are cut down, the air is filled with harmful chemicals, and the health of humans and animals alike is affected. Most people do not think of paper as being a significant factor in environmental damage. In some countries, paper made by hand helps offset the effects of pollution and deforestation. However, America is mostly run by mass produced paper, and while handmade paper is not quite yet a dead art it is not being used as it once was. A higher usage of types of handmade paper can help combat the negative effect on the environment, resulting in less pollution and waste.
Paper has a long and rich history, spanning thousands of years and many cultures. To understand how we have come to where we are in the paper industry, we must understand the history of paper as a whole. Paper was first produced as a cheaper alternative to bamboo or silk. It was easier to transport and easier to write on. It was first made out of tree bark, rags, and anything that could be turned into a sheet of paper. Papyrus was used in Egypt and Greece, and parchment was used as an alternative. The demand of writing materials grew as people began placing value on writing and literature. In addition to being used as a writing material, it began to be used for religious ceremonies and decorative purposes, giving paper a wider range of use and thus creating more demand. Throughout the last few thousand years, paper has increased in importance until today where paper is an underappreciated material. After papermaking machines were developed by Nicholas Louis Robert in 1798 (Dawson, 14), handmade paper was left as an artisan’s craft. Machine use increased, and handmade methods decreased, resulting in the overconsumption paper that we have today.
As defined in Paper: The Continuous Thread, “paper is properly defined as a substance made from fibers that are macerated until each individual filament becomes a separate unit” (Webb, 8). The processes of papermaking differ greatly between paper mills and handmade paper. Paper mills are much more harmful to the environment, resulting in significant deforestation and pollution. In a paper mill, paper is made with wood pulp. Trees are cut down, stripped, and chemically broken down into a pulp where there are different tree fibers. These are then chemically bleached and made into perfect sheets of different types of paper. These chemicals are especially harmful to the environment as they pump out harmful gases into the atmosphere. This dangerous production accounts for numerous copy...