From Tree to Paper

National tree week was first established in 1975, to encourage schools, councils, communities’ ways to get involved in tree plantation. So, how does the paper we use everyday come from something as majestic and old as a tree? How do we make paper and create from something as thick and solid as bark? Well, it all starts with a tree.

Paper companies usually plant over 150 million trees a year to encourage natural growth and make trees to be turned into paper. After these trees reach a certain height, they are chopped and cut into manageable pieces. All logs must be firstly stripped of their natural bark as this product cannot be used in the paper process.

The logs are then chopped into small pieces before they are chemically pulped, to create a thicker smoother concentration to drag out the tree’s fibres called ‘cellulose,’ which is like a watery soup.

It is then transported into huge paper making machines, where excess water is removed and the fibres spread, giving it the feeling of a thin sheet. Then they are pressed to remove more excess water. Then the sheets are thoroughly dried at around 130 degrees. During this time, various chemicals are used to enhance the quality of the paper, before it is rolled onto jumbo wheels and sliced into the paper, we all love and use today.

Recycled paper takes a similar approach, of turning scraps of leftover paper in a thick pulp and blending with various chemicals to make the pump smooth and cleaning out the excess ink found on used paper. During the manufacturing process however, as the paper forms into the thinner slices, the paper is painted synthetically, as the colouring is often grey which is undesirable by paper companies.

And that’s the process, from tree to paper. Make sure you check out the national tree council to find celebrations in your area and happy planting!

Published by Heather Dalgleish

21-year-old journalism student. Author and illustrator for In Full Bloom Magazine

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