What is paper made from?

 

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Paper is a renewable resource

Paper can be made from any fibrous material – wood pulp, rags, straw. In South Africa, paper is made from the wood of commercial timber plantations and recycled paper, along with a small amount of bagasse (sugar cane processing waste.)

Timber plantations have been established through afforestation – tree planting – and cover 1.2 million hectares (1% of South Africa’s land cover). These trees are sustainably cultivated and managed to supply the pulp and paper, construction, furniture, marine, mining and utility pole industries with a renewable resource. Around 850 million trees are planted over 676 000 hectares to supply the pulp and paper sector.

Tree seedlings are grown in nurseries until they are ready for planting on harvested plots. After 7-10 years, the trees will be mature for harvesting. Only a small percentage of the total plantation area is harvested. After the harvesting the wood is debarked, chipped and made into a pulp. Within the same year, new trees are planted in their place, and so the cycle continues. This is why wood and paper are a renewable resource.

Indigenous trees and natural forests are NEVER used in papermaking. For this reason, be sure to procure paper from certified sources carrying marks such as Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC) or Programme of the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC).

 

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A number of paper products are also made from recycled paper fibre which is sourced from used cardboard boxes, white paper, milk and juice cartons and paper cups as well as newspaper, magazines and cereal boxes. 

The recycled paper is made into new products that supply chains rely on to protect and transport goods every day, as well as daily essentials like tissue products.

Trees, carbon and paper

One of the least understood facts about paper products (and all harvested wood products) is that they store carbon. A tree will absorb carbon – and release oxygen – throughout its life, thanks to the wonderful process of photosynthesis. The carbon is stored in the wood, leaves and roots. Even when the wood is made into a product, the carbon stays locked up – until the product decays or degrades. It’s one of the reasons why recycling is key as the recycling keeps the carbon stored in the paper fibres for longer

Carbon cycle of paper and wood

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