Paper / FAQ

  1. Where does the term paper come from?

    The term paper comes from the Latin word papyrus, which in turn comes from Greek.

    Throughout history, mankind has used different materials as writing surfaces. First to be used were stone, wood, metals or clay. Later, more suitable materials were found, such as papyrus and parchment and finally paper. 

    The Egyptians obtained papyrus from the stem of the papyrus, an aquatic plant that grows on the banks of the Nile. It was produced by cutting long thin strips, which were then formed into a sheet that was pressed and pounded with a mallet to give it uniform thickness.

    Papyrus ceased to be used after the Arab invasion, which hampered goods flows between East and West and following the arrival of its competitor, parchment. Made from skinned animal hide, stretched, marinated in lime and glossed, parchment was widely used in the Middle Ages. The word ‘parchment’ is derived from the ancient city of Pergamon in Asia Minor, where highly treasured scrolls were produced.

  2. Who invented paper?

    The existence of materials similar to what we understand by paper today is known to go back at least as far as the year 98 AC. However, the inventor of paper is considered to be the chamberlain of the Chinese court, Tsai Lun, when in the year 105 AD he offered the Emperor a sheet of white paper..

    Tsai Lun produced his paper by disintegrating vegetable fibres and rags with a wooden mallet. To form the sheet, he used a forming tool composed of fine bamboo sticks together with silk thread. As an additive, he used agar seaweed. Possibly the plant fibres used by Tsai Lun came from the mulberry tree.

  3. What is paper made of?

    The main raw material for making the paper is cellulose fibre, obtained from wood that grows in plantations of fast-growing species, mainly pine and eucalyptus. When the fibre is used for the first time, it is called virgin fibre and when through recycling, it is recovered and reused as a raw material for papermaking, we call it recycled fibre. But in fact, it is the same fibre at different points in its life cycle.

    As auxiliary materials, kaolin and starch are also used.

  4. What are the environmental benefits of paper?

    Paper is a natural product, because the cellulose fibre it is made with comes from wood, a natural raw material, which is also renewable. And paper also has one other significant environmental advantage: it is one hundred percent recyclable and biodegradable.

    Moreover, paper is a store of CO2. The plantations where pines and eucalyptus are grown to make paper are large CO2 sinks. And that CO2 remains in the subsequent paper products. Thus the paper industry helps to mitigate climate change.

  5. What would a world without paper be like?

    There would be no toilet paper in the bathroom in the morning. No newspapers to read during breakfast. There would be no letters or faxes at the office. We would not be able to print off an email or write down a message on paper. There would be no stamps or envelopes. You would not be able to show your workmates that photograph you carry in your wallet, where you would not keep any tickets or cards either. During lunch, you could not kill time with a magazine and you would not have any bank notes to pay the restaurant bill, which would not exist anyway. There would be no paper bags or cardboard boxes to carry and protect your purchases. You would not have any books to read in bed... There are 36 varieties of cellulose and about 500 varieties of paper. With hundreds of end uses, paper provides for the needs of communications, culture, education, art, hygiene, healthcare, distribution, storage and the transportation of all kinds of goods... It would be hard to imagine a world without paper when every day, we interact dozens and dozens of times with paper in its various shapes and forms.

  6. What are the advantages of paper and cardboard packaging?

    Firstly, they are natural and easily recyclable products. Paper and cardboard packaging is the natural response to the needs of trade and distribution of all kinds of goods. 

    Paper packaging is also very versatile. Boxes and packets of coated board, paper bags and sacks, corrugated boxes, pallets, trays, display cases... all protect the product and facilitate its transport, handling and storage.

    Thanks to the excellent quality of printing they provide, paper and cardboard packaging is an excellent base on which to portray a brand image. It can both separate and group together sales units and is the ideal vehicle to provide consumers with information about product characteristics. .

    It is a robust package that can be used to protect the most delicate porcelain to large electrical appliances. Its lightness and foldability allow for huge savings in freight costs.

  7. Where does the wood which contains cellulose to make paper come from?

    The wood from which pulp for paper making is produced comes from fast-growing trees that are planted and grown for that purpose. Far from contributing to a decrease in forest land-area, the pulp and paper industry contributes to its growth through these plantations, which are continuously regenerated and replanted.

    The fast-growing species used in Spain for making paper are primarily pine and eucalyptus.

  8. Is the paper industry sustainable?

    The paper industry is one of the best positioned sectors to meet the requirements of sustainable development: it involves renewable raw materials, recyclable products and sophisticated production processes in continuous development in search of more environmentally friendly technologies.

    The paper industry also has a great potential among strategies to mitigate climate change: a raw material –wood – that sequesters carbon, products that store CO2, a long history of optimizing energy efficiency (co-generation, biofuels...), and high recycling rates which lead to reduced landfill emissions.

    Some industry data on environmental issues stand as a clear example of how far the sector has advanced down the road to sustainable development in recent years:

    • Water usage for pulp and paper production has been reduced by 25% since 2000. Furthermore, only between 5% and 10% of water used in the process is consumed (as it evaporates or is incorporated into the product) while the rest is treated and returned.
    • Landfill discharges in tons terms has decreased by 18% for pulp and 56% for paper since 1990.
    • Most of the energy consumed in plants is produced by the paper sector itself in cogeneration plants, which are located next to pulp and paper mills. This prevents the loss of electricity during transport. Cogeneration produces, at the same time, electricity and useful heat in the forme of steam. This optimises the use of fuel and saves primary energy and reduces emissions.
    • Determined usage of cleaner fuels such as natural gas or renewable fuels such as biomass and process waste, which account respectively for 73% and 23% of total fuel consumption.
    • 97% of the sector's output is governed by Environmental Management Systems (ISO or EMAS).
    • Already 71% of the paper consumed in Spain is collected and recycled.
    • The Spanish paper industry is the second largest recycler in the EU behind Germany. Every year, as a raw material, it uses 5.1 millions tonnes of paper for recycling, which represents 50 large football stadiums such as Bernabéu or Camp Nou filled to the brim with paper and cardboard.
  9. What does the expression "carbon sink" as applied to forests, wood and paper mean?

    Trees use sunlight, water and CO2 absorbed from the atmosphere to feed and grow.

    Because of this singular feature, plantations of fast growing species (eucalyptus, pine...) are large CO2 sinks and help curb climate change. Recent studies show that once a forest reaches maturity, it ceases to fix carbon, so these productive plantations are an environmental opportunityl.

    The 420,580 hectares of pine and eucalyptus plantations for papermaking store 28 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent, with an annual increase of stored CO2 of 33% over 2010.

  10. Are forests used to make paper being destroyed?

    The wood from which pulp for paper production is made comes from fast-growing trees planted and grown for that purpose. Thus, the pulp and paper industry contributes to increasing forest land-area with its forest plantations, which are continuously regenerated and replanted.

    Currently in Spain, thanks to paper production, 420,580 hectares of pine and eucalyptus trees exist and are upkept.

    Annual logging for all applications (furniture industry, construction, paper, fuel...) in Spain represent 32% of the annual increment of wood. With this cautious attitude, our forests are guaranteed to keep growing.

    According to data from the FAO, we are the fourth European country in terms of forest surface area, behind Russia, Sweden and Finland. Furthermore, the forest surface area in Spain is growing (from 13.8 million hectares in 1990 to 18.2 million hectares according to the latest data from MAGRAMA (the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment).

  11. What is forest certification?

    Our citizens are increasingly concerned about the environment and the sustainable use of natural resources and thus demand that wood products come from environmentally sound origins, guaranteed by certification.

    Forest certification is a voluntary process through which an independent third party guarantees the sustainability of a forest stand’s management and of the subsequent passage of its timber through industry (chain of custody).

    Certification promotes sustainable forest management as a guarantee of the future of our forests. It also contributes to rural development and establishing population in disadvantaged areas. And it adds value to wood and wood-based products by offering consumers the opportunity to purchase products guaranteed as environmentally friendly.

    Committed to sustainable forest management and certification, the paper industry has made efforts and has currently certified its chain of custody in 72% of paper mills, 100% of pulp mills and 85% of wood suppliers. In just a few years, extensive progress has been made and currently 51% of pulp production on the market and 46% of the production of paper sold are certified.

  12. Is it better to buy recycled paper instead of paper made with virgin fibre?

    Normally, when that question is asked, it is referring to office paper: for photocopying, printing and writing, of which the most popular format (A4) is regarded as the only paper.

    However, on many occasions, what is not understood is that the paper present in multiple daily uses is manufactured primarily from paper for recycling, such as newsprint or wrapping paper. In Spain, for example, paper for recycling as raw material for industry represents over 80% of the total i.e. to produce 100 tons of paper of any kind, 80 tonnes of recovered paper and 20 tonnes of virgin pulp are used.

    For that reason, Spain ranks number one in the European Union with regard to the use of paper for recycling.

    To answer the question, it should be noted that in general terms throughout Europe, the vast majority of so-called printing & writing papers are produced from virgin pulp because they more readily provide the necessary features in terms of whiteness, printability, runnability, etc. That does not mean that their production has a greater environmental impact, since in all cases mills are subject to stringent controls and performance requirements that guarantee environmental respect.

    From the environmental point of view, the important thing is that paper, once used, be separated for recycling.

  13. How and why is it recycled?

    Paper is a 100% recyclable material. Waste paper is a commodity that can be re-used to manufacture new paper.

    Used paper products are collected for recycling from town waste sorting services (blue container, company door to door pick-up and recycling stations) and from collection services carried our by private operators in large commercial areas aimed at distribution, industry, printing, etc.

    All paper and cardboard go to the warehouses of companies in the waste recovery sector where they undergo treatment consisting of classification, preparation and baling.

    Finally, paper mills buy this paper and cardboard and recycle it. They use it as a raw material to produce recycled paper and cardboard.

    It is essential that paper and cardboard be collected separately from other materials to avoid contamination.

    With regard to the blue bin (used to collect domestic waste paper) the industry pledges that ALL paper and cardboard deposited in it will be recycled. 

  14. How can waste paper be collected in the workplace for recycling?

    In order for paper to be recycled it has to be collected separately from other waste. For this purpose, a classic procedure is to place cardboard bins in the places where most waste is generated, for example, next to photocopiers. If it is a large office, in order to facilitate collection, these bins are often emptied into bags and placed in containers at the entrance to the building or in loading bays, for example, in the car park.

    Actual collection has to be contracted from a paper and board recovery firm. The rate they charge will depend on the amount generated and how easy access for collection is. The cost will be lower the more paper is generated and the easier it can be picked up. You can contact paper recovery firms through the Spanish Forum of Paper for Recycling. Their website a map showing the position of recycling firms.

  15. Is the expansion of recycling restricted in any way?

    It will always be necessary to feed a certain amount of virgin fibre into the paper cycle..

    It is estimated that about 19% of used paper cannot be recovered for recycling for various reasons. Sometimes simply because we keep it, such as books, documents and photos we keep at home or in archives and libraries; other times because, as part of its use, it is damaged or destroyed, such as toilet paper.

    Furthermore, cellulose fibre deteriorates over successive uses.

    There are also certain types of paper that, given their intended use, have to provide certain features that can only be obtained with virgin fibre.

    Therefore, a certain amount of virgin fibre always has to be added to the paper cycle.