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How is paper made?

Paper gets its name from papyrus (a tree with thick fibrous stems), a plant that grows in the swamps in Egypt. The ancient Egyptians made a kind of paper from papyrus. But, the Chinese invented the art of making paper, as we know it today. About 1900 years ago, the Chinese learned to separate the fibres from the mulberry bark. They soaked these, and then dried them, making a flat sheet and left to dry in the sun after which it was polished. Paper is still made from plant fibres. Some of the best papers are made from cotton. Most of the paper is made from wood pulp. Wooden logs from trees such as pine, eucalyptus, poplar, birch, firs and chestnut, are taken to a paper mill, where the bark is stripped off and then cut into chips. These chips are put into huge vats, where they are boiled and stirred with chemicals until they become a soggy pulp. This pulp is washed and bleached to make white paper. Adhesives, such as glue, are added to make the fibres stick together in the paper. The pulp is now mixed with china clay or chalk to improve the opacity and surface-finish of the paper. The product at this stage is called ‘stuff’ and ‘stock’. The stuff is then spread out on a belt of wire mesh of a refining machine. The water begins to drain out of it through the holes in the mesh and the fibres begin to mesh together into a thin sheet. This sheet then passes through a series of felt-covered rollers that squeeze out remaining water and press the fibres more firmly together. It is then passed through a series of steam-heated metal cylinders that evaporate the remaining water and make it dry. And finally, it goes through polished iron rollers, which make its surface highly smooth. After smoothening, the paper is wound into large rolls. These rolls are subsequently cut into convenient sizes. In India, since there is a scarcity of wood, most of the paper is of cheaper variety and is made from grass, waste paper, rope, ricehusk, straw, rags and other agro-wastes. A lot of mills also import paper pulp from which paper is made. India still has to import a lot of paper since the domestic industries are unable to fulfil the demands of the Indian market.

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