Introduction to the Paper Industry

The forest and paper products industry is an important part of the United States’ manufacturing sector. It employs 1.2 million people and is among the top 10 manufacturing employers in 42 states. The industry generates more than $230 billion in annual sales, both domestically and internationally.

The paper industry is expensive to operate and requires a lot of energy. A single modern paper machine costs $400 million and requires several trained workers to operate. The manufacturing process also requires 8 to 10 million BTU of energy per metric ton of product. However, the industry is sustainable as it plants more trees than it cuts and grows more wood than it harvests. The industry is also able to generate 60% of the energy it needs.

In 2005, the US produced 37.6 million metric tons of paper and 45.7 million tons of paperboard. These production figures are analyzed by RISI, and publications like Pulp and Paper, Paper Age, and Pulp and Paper International provide updates on industry issues and production statistics. Over 51% of the paper industry’s product is reused, with a goal of reaching 55%.

Paper is categorized as wood-containing or wood-free, bleached or unbleached, and coated or uncoated. Printing papers are usually bleached and are separated by appearance ranking, based on brightness and opacity. Printing papers can have different finishes such as glossy, dull or matte. Packaging papers are mostly unbleached and are graded by weight, fiber source, caliper, and strength properties. High-quality board grades are bleached or coated to create a white surface.

Paper products are used in various markets, including printing, writing, packaging, tissue making, and others. Tissue paper is soft and absorbent, while printing and writing paper is medium weight and smooth. Board making produces heavyweight sheets designed for packaging. The demand for paper and paperboard is predicted to grow, ranging from 0.3% to 1.4% based on production data in 2005.

There are many resources available that provide information about the paper industry and its products. The American Forest and Paper Association is the national trade association for the industry and TAPPI is an international society that collects and distributes technical information for those who work in the industry. There are also several publications that report on scientific and technical progress in the industry, including TAPPI Journal, the Journal for Pulp and Paper Science, and several international journals. Recent publications include a monograph on starch and starch products in surface sizing and paper coating, and a research report on modified starch.

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