The history of paper is also the history of human culture and civilization. The Egyptians, Greeks and Romans wrote on “papyrus”, a paper-like material. Today’s kind of paper was first developed and used in China. Paper was the most important carrier of information in the past. It was only with increasing paper production that the transfer of knowledge, education and information to a larger portion of society became possible.
With paper emperors were able to administrate large empires more easily. In former times paper was a valuable product, and paper making an art – an art that was often kept secret because of the outstanding advantages of the product. Today paper has changed from a rare artisan material to a commodity product, with a high practical value in communication, in educational, artistic, hygienic, sanitary, and technical applications.
Nobody can imagine a world without paper. A large variety of paper grades are produced to suit the special requirements of each application: Graphic paper grades, packaging papers and board, hygienic papers, and speciality paper grades. Paper can be impregnated, coated, laminated, creped, molded etc. Paper products embellish our homes, and sanitary products made of paper ease our daily life. An easier life is also more likely with a sufficient number of banknotes in the briefcase. Packaging papers and board grades support supermarket logistics and product presentations. Computer print-outs and other graphic papers such as newspapers, magazines and books accompany us through our life. Even today in our digital world paper is a reliable means of long-time documentation and data preservation.
The worldwide consumption of paper is increasing steadily over the years. The paper consumption in individual countries is related to their gross national product and hence the further increase in paper and board consumption will be different in different countries depending on whether economic saturation, as e. g. in the United States and Central Europe, or fast increasing demand, as in China, is prevailing. The ratio of the worldwide consumption of the different paper and board grades has changed in the past and will change in the future according to technical and social evolution and developments in the individual countries and in the world as a whole. The components used in paper and board production worldwide are given in Fig. 1.1.
Today recovered paper has become the main resource for paper and board production, followed by chemical pulp, mechanical pulp, pigments and fillers, and chemical additives. Paper is mainly based on fibers from cultured woods, and is a renewable and recyclable raw material. The special characteristic of this fiber material is that the paper strength results from the hydrogen bonding between the individual fibers. In certain cases it is enhanced by the addition of starch or wet strength additives. The hydrogen bonds are loosened by rewetting the paper which allows easy recycling. Increased paper recycling and sustained foresting help to preserve the wood resources of the earth. The paper industry has steadily improved its standards in complying with environmental demands as related to water consumption and water effluents, energy consumption, and primary (and secondary) fiber consumption. These standards have to be maintained and even improved in the future because of further increasing paper and board consumption and limited resources.